Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Miracles Happen Each and Every Day

When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. - Mark 5:38-43

Throughout the gospels, Jesus performs miracles. He changes water into wine, calms a raging sea and walks across it. He feeds five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. He heals people who are blind, crippled and who suffer from all kinds of diseases. In Mark chapter five, he even brings a young girl back to life after she had died. The people who witness his miracles are continually amazed. They usually cannot believe what they are seeing.

Jesus still performs miracles each and every day. I experienced one of his miracles when the Sturgeon Area Ministerial Alliance restarted a food pantry in Sturgeon. We received an unbelievable outpouring of support from the community. Thousands of dollars of labor and material were donated by individuals and businesses in the Sturgeon area to get the pantry up and going. Twenty-five to thirty people of all ages turn out twice a month to pack 250+ boxes of food that will feed over 600 people each month.

The most amazing thing about it to me is that none of this was coordinated in advance by anyone. It was as if Jesus was in charge of the whole enterprise and continues to be. All of the donated resources and labor came exactly when we needed them. People who do not even know each other simply show up ready to give and serve and they work together like a finely oiled machine. As I watch it unfold each month I can hardly believe my eyes.

When Jesus restored the young girl back to life in Mark chapter five, he tells those who witnessed the miracle not to share it with anyone. He doesn’t want people to think that it is miracles alone that will save them. Jesus isn’t primarily a miracle worker. He does his miraculous works because he cares deeply about the needs of people. He wants us to experience his presence as we serve those in need. But we are saved not by miracles or by any act of giving or generosity that we do. We are saved by faith in the person of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, even when miracles do not happen, especially when the miracles do not happen.

I pray that you experience the saving love of Jesus in your life each and every week. Look for ways to help people in need. You will be amazed to discover how easy it is to find yourself right in the middle of an unfolding miracle of God.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Easter Worship 2012

Easter Worship was the culmination of our sermon series on the Apostle's Creed.  The Sturgeon and Riggs congregations memorized the creed during Lent and we recited it from memory on Easter.  Four new members joined the Riggs church and one joined at Sturgeon.  At the conclusion of the service each family was given a sand dollar to remind them of each part of the Apostle's Creed.

The Legend of the Sand Dollar

There's a lovely little legend
that I would like to tell,
of the birth and death of Jesus,
found in this lowly shell.

If you examine closely,
you'll see that you find here,
four nail holes and a fifth one,
made by a Roman's spear.

On one side the Easter lily,
its center is the star,
that appeared unto the shepherds
and led them from afar.

The Christmas Poinsettia
etched on the other side,
reminds us of His birthday,
our happy Christmastide.

Now break the center open,
and here you will release,
the five white doves awaiting,
to spread Good Will and Peace.

This simple little symbol,
Christ left for you and me,
to help us spread His Gospel,
through all Eternity.

Author Unknown

Garry Self, Jack Lipscomb and Kenny Harrison in suits and ties.  Now that is not a sight you will see very often.  Happy Easter Everyone!

Community Easter Sunrise at Sturgeon

The Sturgeon United Methodist Church hosted a community Easter Sunrise Worship followed by a fellowship breakfast.  Eight-five people attended the service.

Brother Paul Young from the Sturgeon Baptist Church brought the message.

Special music was provided by Dorthea Barton, H.C. and Susan Russel, and Pastor Mike Will.  The sumptuous breakfast was provided by Ruth and Ed Threlkeld.

Bobby and Norma's 60th Anniversary!

Bobby and Norma Bradley celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday, March 25th.  Fifty-five of their family and friends were in worship to honor them that day.

Following worship there was a great time of feasting and fellowship complete with a barbershop quartet to serenade the happy couple.

Maundy Thursday Worship

The Riggs sanctuary was transformed into the upper room for a Maundy Thursday Agape Meal on April 5th.  We ate the foods that were eaten during the Passover meal and read the words that Jesus shared with his disciples during the Last Supper.

Cross Connection Concert!

Forty people attended the Cross Connection Concert at Riggs on Sunday, March 4th.  $375 was given that night to support their singing ministry.  It was a wonderful evening and a successful outreach to our community

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Men's Lenten Breakfasts!

Each year the Sturgeon United Methodist Men cook a delicious, family style breakfast of pancakes, bacon, eggs, toast, jelly, juice, and coffee on three Saturdays during Lent. There is always lots of Christian love and fellowship included in the breakfast. Come join the fun!

Saturday, March 3, 2012,
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Saturday, M arch 31, 2012
8:00-9:30 a.m.

Lenten Sermon Series

Each Sunday during Lent we will focus on a different section of the creed with the goal of memorizing the creed by Easter Sunday.

Lent 1, Sunday, February 26th - “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Genesis 1:1-5 & Acts 17:22-31
Lent 2, Sunday, March 4th - “And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” Matthew 1:18-21, 16:13-16 & 22:41-46
Lent 3, Sunday, March 11th - “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;” John 12:323-33, 36 & 19:1-7
Lent 4, Sunday, March 18th - “the third day he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead."  Acts 1:6-11 & Matthew 25:31-46
Lent 5, Sunday, March 26th - “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,"  John 14:15-17, 25-27 & 17:11-22
Palm Sunday, April 1st - “the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,”  Colossians 1:3-5 & Mark 11:1-11
Easter Sunday, April 8th - “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  Luke 2:39-55 & 24:1-11

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Transfiguration Sunday 2012

On Transfiguration Sunday we talked about Jesus shining like the sun. This is a picture of the Rigg's kids during the children's message wearing sunglasses so they will be ready for Jesus to show up in all of his glory during worship!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Election Year Thoughts . . .

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
- 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Paul is writing a letter to the early Christian church in the city of Corinth. Corinth was a large, cosmopolitan seaport. Because of its location, goods and people from around the world flowed in and out of its ports. It was a cultural center for art, philosophy and religion. It contained a number of pagan temples to the Roman Gods and other religions. The city had a reputation for crime, vice and immorality. Paul spent 18 months establishing a Christian church there according to Acts 18:1-18. He wrote this letter around 54 A.D. It is written in response to questions and struggles that faced this early Christian community.

It is obvious from the letter that Paul is passionate about reaching people who do not know God. He believes that he has been commissioned to share God’s good news with the world and he takes his assignment with the utmost seriousness. Even though his relationship with God has set him free in every way, he freely chooses to become a servant of others. He makes a point to “become all things to all people” acting and speaking the language of both the Jews and Gentiles to win them over to God.

In this election year, we will hear a lot of talk from candidates trying to “win” us over. A lot of the talk is also derogatory toward the other candidates. In the primaries, the candidates from the same party attack each other to gain the upper hand. Then in the main election, the candidates from opposite parties attack each other. It is more and more difficult to imagine our political leaders looking for common ground for the good of all. I would love to reinterpret Paul’s words to say that when democrats and republicans interact, they would try to become more like the other one, to think seriously about each other’s value system and ideas so that they might win each other over for the betterment of the world.

If we wish this from our politicians perhaps the best place to start is with ourselves. Can we be open and gracious with each other, listening to each other’s views, looking for the very best ideas for the good of all? Can we make every effort to learn each other’s values, speak each other’s language and hear each other’s hopes and dreams? Jesus Christ came into this world to break through dividing walls of hostility (Ephesians 2:14) and make connections with people that had never existed before. Let us join together with Christ and the Apostle Paul to do this most important work, for the sake of the Gospel, so that all may share in its life renewing blessings.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gifts of Food!

The Riggs Congregation collected food during the Christmas season to help a family in need. The Sturgeon congregation also provided donations.
We delivered an entire pick up truck of food on Sunday, January 8th. The donations included a wide variety of nutritious foods including frozen meat. The children were especially excited as we kept bringing boxes and bags through the door. One of the children asked, "Is there still more?" What a privilege to offer God's love through extravagant generosity with no strings attached. What a blessing for this family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

From Darkness to Light

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. – Isaiah 64:1-9

I hope all of you have enjoyed a wonderful time of preparation for Christmas. In the church we call this time Advent. Advent is the beginning of our church year and it occurs when the days are becoming shorter. December 21st, the shortest day of the year is just a few days before Christmas. The fact that Advent begins in a time of increasing darkness is a reminder to all believers that the world often looks darker before the light comes.

In our scripture reading, Isaiah is praying fervently for God to come down to earth. He is begging God, maybe even raging at God to come and help his people. This is an important witness to us. We too are encouraged to share our deepest longings with God. God relishes this kind of sharing. God is not put off by intense feelings, but rather longs for an open, honest communication similar to what Isaiah is offering.

Isaiah is interceding on behalf of the people of Israel who are exiles and captives. The people had lost their close connection with God. They had become “unclean” filled with greed and idolatry. As Isaiah put it, even their “righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth . . . There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you.”

Isaiah sees the great impossibility of the situation, the place where no human answer can apply. His people need the presence of the Holy God, the powerful God, the giver of the law, but the people are unclean, filthy. The law teaches that nothing holy can come near anything unclean. The unclean are under righteous judgment. His guilty people are unworthy but in great need. They are poor, mourning, and broken. What will happen?

But the prayer of Isaiah is not over . . . Like a small candle lit in the midst of total darkness, Isaiah uses a small three letter word: “Yet!”

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay. You are the potter. We are all the work of your hand. We are all your people. You love us. You made us. You claim us. We belong to you. Like clay in your hand, you infuse us with the warmth of your life. You form us with an identity of value and worth. You mold us to be filled with your presence and meaning. You strengthen us with the removal of our impurities. Father, we are all the work of your hands!

God did hear the prayer of Isaiah to come down. He came down to a little rural town called Bethlehem and into our midst in the little clay lump of a stable and was born as a baby into our hands. God refuses to give up on us. May we also not give up on God. Let us give all that we have and all that we are back to God as we prepare for Christ to be born anew in us and our world. Joy!