Excuse the technical glitch — the 40 Day Walk is coming!

In preparing for the 40 Day Walk With God devotionals on this site, we accidentally published the first devotional early for a short time, which sent an e-mail notification to many of you. The 40 Day Walk With God devotionals will begin this coming Monday, April 21, 2014 and that post will be available here at that time. We will then publish each day’s devotional at 4:00 a.m. CDT on the scheduled date. It’s going to be great, and we hope you will check in every day as we reflect on God’s call for the Nashville Episcopal Area together.


SRP for the week of 4/13/2015: Luke 15

Luke 15

Common English Bible (CEB)

Occasions for celebration

All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders.When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.

“Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one of them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it?  When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ 10  In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.”

11 Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them.13 Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living.

14 “When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. 15 He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19  I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. 26  He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ 28  Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. 29  He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30  But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31  Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32  But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”


Scripture Reading Plan for the week of 4/6/2014: Luke 14

Luke 14

Common English Bible (CEB)

Healing on the Sabbath

14 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. A man suffering from an abnormal swelling of the body was there. Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Does the Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?” But they said nothing. Jesus took hold of the sick man, cured him, and then let him go. He said to them, “Suppose your child or ox fell into a ditch on the Sabbath day. Wouldn’t you immediately pull it out?” But they had no response.

Lessons on humility and generosity

When Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats at the table, he told them a parable. “When someone invites you to a wedding celebration, don’t take your seat in the place of honor. Someone more highly regarded than you could have been invited by your host.  The host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give your seat to this other person.’ Embarrassed, you will take your seat in the least important place. 10  Instead, when you receive an invitation, go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11  All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”

12 Then Jesus said to the person who had invited him, “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. 13  Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. 14  And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.”

15 When one of the dinner guests heard Jesus’ remarks, he said to Jesus, “Happy are those who will feast in God’s kingdom.”

16 Jesus replied, “A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people. 17  When it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to tell the invited guests, ‘Come! The dinner is now ready.’ 18  One by one, they all began to make excuses. The first one told him, ‘I bought a farm and must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19  Another said, ‘I bought five teams of oxen, and I’m going to check on them. Please excuse me.’ 20  Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21  When he returned, the servant reported these excuses to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.’ 22  The servant said, ‘Master, your instructions have been followed and there is still room.’ 23  The master said to the servant, ‘Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled. 24  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”

Discipleship’s demands

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, 26 “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. 30 They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’ 31 Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him? 32 And if he didn’t think he could win, he would send a representative to discuss terms of peace while his enemy was still a long way off. 33 In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple.

34 “Salt is good. But if salt loses its flavor, how will it become salty again? 35  It has no value, neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. People throw it away. Whoever has ears to hear should pay attention.”


Appointments to be announced

Sunday, April 6, announcements will be made in congregations across the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences with regard to pastoral changes.  The appointive cabinet has been at work for the last several months striving to listen and discern those appointments that will be missional and foster fruitful and faithful ministry across the two conferences. The work has been done prayerfully and faithfully.

 

Itinerancy is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the United Methodist Church.
It was instituted by John Wesley in 1746 when he appointed lay preachers whom he called “helpers” as a means to serve definitive circuits.  This is the method by which we provide pastoral leadership to congregations in our denomination.  Over time the process has been modified and timing has shifted, but, essentially, we continue to live by process we call itinerancy.

 

Our process is rooted in the Biblical understanding that God’s people are a sent people. Throughout Scripture, God is continually calling and sending persons into the mission field to offer the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus sent the 12 Disciples and later 70+ others to preach Good News to the poor, release to the captives and the recovering of sight to the blind.

 

We Methodists are a sent people.  So it is, each spring the Bishop and District Superintendents do the challenging work of determining pastoral leadership for congregations.

 

Our goal is always to create the best possible matches between pastors and congregations based on:

–      The missional needs of communities

–      A desire to have healthy, vital congregations

–      A call to reach persons living in our neighborhoods, communities and cities with the Good News of Jesus Christ

–      A pastor’s fruitfulness and faithfulness

 

So it is that we have completed the appointive work for this year.  Some pastors and congregations not expecting a move will be having changes.  We will ask some pastors to move when it was not their expectation.  Some pastors will move at a salary increase. Some will move at a salary decrease.

 

Across the Nashville Area, there will be almost $300,000 less salary dollars available as a result of congregations which are reducing salary support in order to be faithful to their mission and ministry.  Some station churches are now at the point of needing to be aligned with a sister church creating a two or three point charge served by one pastor in order to provide an adequate salary package for a pastor.

 

We have also increased the number of “across the river” appointments.

 

In all, the work has been prayerful and hopeful for those sent into the mission field across our two annual conferences. In the near future, when it is clear that all of our appointments are fixed, we will post them on this blog for your information.

 

Please continue to pray for all who are in the midst of transitions, especially spouses and children who will be uprooted.

 

Godspeed.

 Addendum:  

After posting this article our fine District Superintendents reminded me that we had not in fact completed all our work.  Our Part-time appointments have not, in every district, been completed. These appointments are typically considered appointments that the District Superintendent makes, usually within the leadership of a particular district.

In most cases, our small membership churches are served wonderfully by bi-vocational pastors who are bound to a specific geographical area due to secular employment. Thus, their ability to itinerate is often limited to a district.

There is no way we can provide leadership to our many rural congregations without the faithful work of these who serve the small membership congregations across our two conferences. 

I deeply regret my oversight on this important matter. 

Bishop Bill McAlilly


Scripture Reading Plan for 3/30/2013 — Luke 13

Luke 13

Common English Bible (CEB)

Demand for genuine change

13 Some who were present on that occasion told Jesus about the Galileans whom Pilate had killed while they were offering sacrifices. He replied, “Do you think the suffering of these Galileans proves that they were more sinful than all the other Galileans?  No, I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.  What about those eighteen people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them? Do you think that they were more guilty of wrongdoing than everyone else who lives in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.”

Jesus told this parable: “A man owned a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none.  He said to his gardener, ‘Look, I’ve come looking for fruit on this fig tree for the past three years, and I’ve never found any. Cut it down! Why should it continue depleting the soil’s nutrients?’  The gardener responded, ‘Lord, give it one more year, and I will dig around it and give it fertilizer.  Maybe it will produce fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.’”

Healing on a Sabbath

10 Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 A woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight. 12 When he saw her, Jesus called her to him and said, “Woman, you are set free from your sickness.” 13 He placed his hands on her and she straightened up at once and praised God.

14 The synagogue leader, incensed that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded, “There are six days during which work is permitted. Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath day.”

15 The Lord replied, “Hypocrites! Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from its stall and lead it out to get a drink? 16  Then isn’t it necessary that this woman, a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen long years, be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day?” 17 When he said these things, all his opponents were put to shame, but all those in the crowd rejoiced at all the extraordinary things he was doing.

Growth of God’s kingdom

18 Jesus asked, “What is God’s kingdom like? To what can I compare it? 19  It’s like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in a garden. It grew and developed into a tree and the birds in the sky nested in its branches.”

20 Again he said, “To what can I compare God’s kingdom? 21  It’s like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through the whole.”

Who will be saved?

22 Jesus traveled through cities and villages, teaching and making his way to Jerusalem.23 Someone said to him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”

Jesus said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate. Many, I tell you, will try to enter and won’t be able to. 25  Once the owner of the house gets up and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from.’ 26  Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27  He will respond, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from. Go away from me, all you evildoers!’[a] 28  There will be weeping and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God’s kingdom, but you yourselves will be thrown out. 29  People will come from east and west, north and south, and sit down to eat in God’s kingdom. 30 Look! Those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last.”

Sorrow for Jerusalem

31 At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus and said, “Go! Get away from here, because Herod wants to kill you.”

32 Jesus said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Look, I’m throwing out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete my work. 33 However, it’s necessary for me to travel today, tomorrow, and the next day because it’s impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that. 35  Look, your house is abandoned. I tell you, you won’t see me until the time comes when you say, Blessings on the one who comes in the Lord’s name.”[b]


Reflections on Luke 12

Words that Jump Out at Me:

Fear   Belong    Poor  Beauty               Heart  Generous

 

The Prayer   

More often than not, O God, fear creeps in on me just as it did your disciples. Remind us over and over again that when you speak of fear, you call us to your Holiness. Remind us that regardless of the security that we seek, we are not poor but rather have wealth beyond all measure in your generous love.  Through security in you, we belong. Teach us to seek the beauty of the flowers that grow in the fields of life. Give us glad and generous hearts knowing that perfect love casts out fear. Amen.

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Wesley’s multiple modes of evangelism

AndrewThompson_sqRecently I’ve been reading Andrew Thompson’s blog series From Wesley’s Pen as he reflects on John Wesley’s life and practice. For those who don’t know Andrew Thompson, he is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and teaches at Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned the Doctor of Theology degree from Duke University. Thompson’s scholarly work focuses on the thought of John Wesley, the history of early Methodism, and contemporary Wesleyan theology. He will joining us at both annual conference sessions to think about the task of connecting and equipping people to carry out ministry in the United Methodist Church.

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Scripture Reading Plan for the week of March 23, 2014 — Luke 12

Luke 12

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Warnings

12 As thousands of people crowded around Jesus and were stepping on each other, he told his disciples:

Be sure to guard against the dishonest teaching[a] of the Pharisees! It is their way of fooling people. 2 Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known. 3 Whatever you say in the dark will be heard when it is day. Whatever you whisper in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.

The One To Fear

4 My friends, don’t be afraid of people. They can kill you, but after that, there is nothing else they can do. 5 God is the one you must fear. Not only can he take your life, but he can throw you into hell. God is certainly the one you should fear!

6 Five sparrows are sold for just two pennies, but God doesn’t forget a one of them. 7 Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don’t be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows.

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Let’s work together to Imagine No Malaria

Imagine-No-Malaria-Logo-300x181

Dear Friends,

By now  you have no  doubt heard about  the United Methodist challenge to eliminate Malaria  deaths in 2015.  Malaria is a  transmitted disease through  the bite of  a mosquito. lt claims  a life every  60 seconds. ln 2010, when the  campaign began,  a person  was dying every 30 seconds.  We are making a difference but  we aren’t there yet.

Malaria is preventable, treatable  and beatable. I am asking that every member and every congregation join in  to make a difference  and help in this fight.  lt is not  too late  to help by making a  decision now  to be part  of making  a huge  difference in the world!

Even though this  challenge has been before us since 2010 and across the  Tennessee and Memphis Conferences  we have seen congregations, youth  groups, United Methodist  Women, Campus Ministries and individuals  work toward this audacious goal.  We have not however, as an  Area, made a  commitment to be part of  this major campaign.

NOW is the time for the Tennessee  and Memphis Conferences, to  join in the effort  to help. l’m asking  your help in  this fight. How can  you help?

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Update on clergy transition workshops

Earlier this week in my post on the appointment process, we listed some dates for some clergy transition workshops. Since then we’ve had to make some changes and wanted to get them to you quickly so you can update your calendars.

The Memphis Conference event is being rolled into one training session which will be held in the Jackson, TN area on May 10 (specific details to come later). Board of Ordained Ministry Chairperson John Jeffords will be coordinating this training.

The Tennessee Conference event will continue to be on Sunday, April 27, 2013 from 3 – 5:30 p.m. at the St. Mark’s UMC in Murfreesboro, TN. Dr. Ed Trimmer from the Center for Church Leadership at Martin Methodist College is coordinating this training.

The cabinet and I are strongly encouraging all pastors and PPR/SPRC chairs facing a transition this year to attend one of these sessions. These trainings will help all be aware of the expectations for both clergy and congregation in a pastoral transition, and will provide resources and suggestions for helping to make the transition more effective all involved.

The itinerant system has been a part of our heritage for years, and when lived out properly can still be a prophetic means of proclaiming our belief in a God who connects his believers together as one body, with one baptism, and one Lord and Savior of all. The clergy transition workshops are one way that we are working toward moving on toward perfection in ensuring that God’s grace is present to both clergy and congregation alike as we deploy ministers to carry out Christ’s work of discovery, equipping, connecting, and sending.


A Word on Appointments

This morning The Nashville Area Cabinet will begin in earnest the first of two appointive session cabinet meetings. We will begin praying for each pastoral family and each congregation seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We are far too mindful of our own human short comings as we do this work for we “see through a glass darkly.”

Still, it is the task for which we have been called and which we believe offers us the best opportunity to give the best leadership available to the congregations under our care. Over the last several weeks District Superintendents have been in consultation with pastors and congregations seeking wisdom and understanding for the work that is before us. We ask for your prayers.

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Scripture Reading Plan for March 16, 2014 — Luke 11

Luke 11

Common English Bible (CEB)

Teaching the disciples to pray

11 Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2 Jesus told them, “When you pray, say:

‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom.
3 Give us the bread we need for today.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation.’”

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Reflections on Luke 10 — Sending Disciples

Holly Neal, our TN Conference Lay Leader, has offered her thoughts on Luke 10.

Luke 10 – Interesting that Chapter 9 began with Jesus sending out the 12.  Now he has commissioned seventy-two others to go out in pairs to every city and place He was about to go. He warns them that I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Carry no wallet, no bag, and no sandals. Don’t even greet anyone along the way. He tells them “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. Whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

20 Nevertheless, don’t rejoice because the spirits submit to you. Rejoice instead that your names are written in heaven.”
Loving your neighbor (I never get tired of this story) My desire is for it to be a way of life for me.

25 A legal expert (lawyer) stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”

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Scripture Reading Plan for March 9, 2014 — Luke 10

Luke 10

Common English Bible (CEB)

Seventy-two sent out

10 After these things, the Lord commissioned seventy-two others and sent them on ahead in pairs to every city and place he was about to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest. 3 Go! Be warned, though, that I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Carry no wallet, no bag, and no sandals. Don’t even greet anyone along the way. 5 Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house.’ 6 If anyone there shares God’s peace, then your peace will rest on that person. If not, your blessing will return to you. 7 Remain in this house, eating and drinking whatever they set before you, for workers deserve their pay. Don’t move from house to house.8 Whenever you enter a city and its people welcome you, eat what they set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘God’s kingdom has come upon you.’ 10 Whenever you enter a city and the people don’t welcome you, go out into the streets and say, 11 ‘As a complaint against you, we brush off the dust of your city that has collected on our feet. But know this: God’s kingdom has come to you.’ 12 I assure you that Sodom will be better off on Judgment Day than that city.

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Reflections on Luke 9

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_The_sending_of_the_Twelve_400The Process

  • Read and Ponder each passage.
  • Write the words that leap out to you.
  • Meet the challenge to write a prayer using all the words you selected.
  • Then select a phrase or sentence from the passage that grabs your attention.
  • Write several personal I BELIEVE statements about each passage.

The Words that leap out at you:

power & authority, take nothing, you give, who do YOU say I am?, hand on the plow

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