SOS from Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel

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Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel preached at the 2014 Memphis Annual Conference in Paducah, Ky., in June.

Today I received the below communication (originally dated Dec. 28 from Africa) from Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel, resident bishop of the East Congo Episcopal Area. To remind you, Bishop Unda preached at our 2014 Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in June 2014. He thanked our Nashville Episcopal Area for raising money in 2013 to construct an Episcopal office and residence in the Congo, which I helped dedicate during my August 2014 trip to Africa. If you wish to offer any financial assistance for the current crisis he describes below, please send to your conference treasurer for “Bishop Unda SOS.”  ~ Bishop Bill McAlilly

To brothers and sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As I write these few lines, my heart is too heavy because of the situation going on in Beni territory, northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is part of my Episcopal Area. The efforts of our army (are) insufficient to protect people.

People there are killed every day in the neighboring villages and we run the risk of losing all our believers. Two weeks ago, a group of Uganda rebels killed people in the villages (of) Kamango, Oicha and Mbawu. A Methodist family (a father, his wife and their two children) were killed with machetes.

Many people are fleeing to Beni. Our local congregations there are crowded with displaced people who flee from villages for their lives. We need your prayers. But, as you know, food and basic needs must be met. Our evangelization should reach people in need.

I am sending this SOS message to all those who may want to help.

May God be with us all during Christmas, but let’s keep in mind that our brothers and sisters are dying somewhere because of selfish interests.

Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel
Resident Bishop, East Congo Episcopal Area


Make plans for ‘Giving Tuesday’ on Dec. 3

givngtues250x250bnnr01Giving Tuesday – Have you heard about it yet?

Created in response to the consumer-driven traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

For United Methodists, this means every gift made online that day through “The Advance” will be matched dollar for dollar. All you have to do is log onto umcmission.org/give and search more than 850 missions and ministries.

I encourage all United Methodists of the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) to participate in Giving Tuesday. It offers us all an opportunity to not only support United Methodist organizations that are transforming the world, but begin the month of December by giving, rather than receiving.

Please join me on Dec. 3 by giving back through The Advance. It’s an easy and meaningful way to show gratitude for the gift of our lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop Bill McAlilly


Thanks Be To God!

Do not grow weary in well doing for in due season you shall reap if you do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

Five months ago we placed before the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church to challenge to raise $87,500.00 to assist in building an episcopal residence for Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel. I am happy to share with you today that we have exceeded our goal!

As of today, October 29, 2013, we have these totals:
Memphis Conference:      $55,894
Tennessee Conference:    $34,862
Total: $90,757

vid.pngA special thanks goes to the Youth of Martin First United Methodist Church who raised $6,700!  Three youth delegates from Martin FUMC were delegates to Annual Conference came home and decided to tackle this challenge and did they ever! I’m convinced the Martin youth set the pace and helped us reach our goal.

I look forward to greeting Bishop Unda in November at the Council of Bishops meeting and sharing this great news with him. Additionally, we are having conversations with Bishop Unda about preaching for us at the 2014 annual conferences.  He has tentatively agreed to be with us. His God Story will touch you deeply.

In keeping with our desire to follow Jesus into the neighborhood, you are blessing our brother in Christ and his family even as they grieve the loss of his daughter and sister Kabibi. I can not thank you enough for making a way where there was no way.

As we continue to journey together, may the peace of Christ dwell richly within you.

Expecting Greater Things!
Bishop Bill


Growing Community

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by Heather Heinzman*

2.jpgA few years ago, Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina was contemplating using a portion of their precious green space to expand the parking for crowded Sunday mornings and highly attended special events. At certain times of the morning, a parking spot could not be found, and people were forced to park up and down the streets bordering the property. But was this really the best use for the land?

Highland UMC had hosted a weekday English as a Second Language (ESL) program for several years, and as some of the church leadership began connecting with the staff and students, a greater use for the proposed parking lot emerged—a community garden. Many of the students came from agricultural areas and not only missed farming the land, but could not afford to buy fresh, healthy produce at the grocery store. After gaining support from the congregation, including a member with a background in agriculture who agreed to head up the project, the Highland Victory Garden was born.

The results from the garden far exceeded expectations. Not only were church members and ESL students working side-by-side in the dirt, other residents in the community volunteered and joined in the effort. The garden also became a place of refuge. People driving by would stop to spend a moment on one of the benches interspersed between the beds, and family members of patients at the nearby hospital would come to the garden for some quiet time away from their loved one’s bedside.

Within a year, the Highland Victory Garden produced enough food to not only feed those who regularly worked in the garden, but provided hundreds of pounds of fresh, healthy food for the local food bank. As churches and community groups were inspired by the garden, at least forty other gardens were also started in the area.

– – –

Questions for Discussion

• How are your church’s resources utilized? Are you building bigger barns or seeking to use your resources to meet needs in the community?
• How is your congregation intentionally building relationships with its neighbors, particularly those who are the most vulnerable?
• Are you aware of the needs and hopes of your neighbors? What are you currently doing to be Christ’s hands and feet to bring hope?

*Heather Heinzman Lear is Director of Evangelism Ministries at GBOD. She can be reached at hlear@gbod.org. You can read more about the Highland Victory Garden at http://www.highlandumc.org.

– – –

About Romans 12 | Romans 12 is a project of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

These congregations are marked by:
– Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
– Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
– Nurture of growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
– Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable–the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
– Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the Body of Christ.
– Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
– Shared clergy and lay leadership.

Romans 12 Newsletter. Issue #174 © 2013 GBOD. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this newsletter for use in United Methodist congregations. This newsletter is provided as a service of the General Board of Discipleship and is funded through World Service apportionment giving by local United Methodist congregations.To subscribe or discontinue a subscription contact Deb Smith at dsmith@gbod.org. For previous issues of the newsletter go to www.gbod.org/Romans12

GBOD | The United Methodist Church (www.GBOD.org)
Toll-free: 877.899.2780
PO Box 340003
Nashville, TN 37203


Rio Grande meets Tennessee River: Leaders participate in international retreat

by Joe Geary

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! Psalm 133:1 NRSV

1.jpgBishop McAlilly and leaders from the Nashville Episcopal Area met with their counterparts in Reynosa, Mexico, September 2-4, for an inter-conference and international retreat to plan ministry on both sides of the border. Participating from our region were the Bishop, Area Cabinet, Chairperson of the Area Pacto (covenant) Committee, Rev. Jim Clardy and the CMT Director of the Memphis Annual Conference, Rev. Tom Hazelwood. The theme of the event was taken from the Gospel of John that “they all might become one.”

At the Piedro Angular Campomento (Cornerstone Camp) in Reynosa, we were joined by Bishop Raul Garcia de Ochoa and the Cabinet of the Conferencia Oriental Anual (Eastern Mexico Annual Conference). Also in attendance were Rev. Roberto Gomez Reyes, the liaison for the Pacto to the Nashville Episcopal Area and Mr. Willie Berman who is the General Board of Global Ministries missionary assigned to minister along the corridor bordering the Rio Grande river.

Each Bishop introduced the participants from their respective areas. Opening worship sought the presence of the Holy Spirit to be with us during the retreat. Tables were made up of equal representation from both nations. The event continued with episcopal leaders presenting the flags of our countries. Each contingent then recited pledges of allegiance and sang national anthems.

The retreat continued with reports from both sides touting the progress of our covenant relationship and where each aspect stood in its development. Throughout the three days, worship was interwoven in the schedule. The three Annual Conferences rotated worship leaders, preachers and those offering devotions, testimonies and song. Language and cultural barriers faded away as strangers became colleagues and then brothers and sisters in Christ. Our time was concluded with a powerful celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

2.jpgThe bulk of our retreat experience was hearing a description of the 27 districts of the three Annual Conferences. Each District Superintendent gave a brief summation of their district including opportunities for mission and ministry. On Tuesday evening, Bishops McAlilly and Garcia asked Superintendents to identify a colleague from the opposite nation. Throughout the experience of the retreat, the Holy Spirit was already building fellowship and affinity amongst the cohort.

Having been paired up as partners, the Superintendents then identified priorities in each district for mutual support. Advance teams will visit one another’s districts in the next few months and then teams will go and work over the coming years. Opportunities exist for local churches to have a sister local church and the same for campus ministries or camping and retreat centers, hospitals and homes.

If you would like to know more, please contact your District Superintendent or Conference CMT Director to express interest and support.

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Memphis Conference youth lead by example, raise $5k for Congo

Youth at Martin First United Methodist Church work to raise more than $5,000 for East Congo parsonage.

Youth at Martin First UMC show us all how it’s done! There is still time to raise $87,500 to build parsonage in East Congo.

Wow! The youth at Martin First United Methodist Church know how to respond to a challenge.

My request at the 2013 Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in early June was for an additional $250 contribution per church to help us meet the Nashville Episcopal Area goal of $87,500 to build a parsonage (home and office) for the Methodist bishop of the East Congo Episcopal Area in Africa.

It seems youth delegates from Martin First UMC in the Dyersburg District were paying attention. Their youth pastor, Rev. Rebecca Alexander, reported to me this week that they raised more than $5,000 for this project!

Want to know how they did it? Alexander said the youth delegates heard me speak at Annual Conference in Collierville and then returned to Martin with “passion and conviction” to do their part … and more!

“(Martin First UMC) youth chose to raise $5,000 –  not only the $250 for our church, but also $250 for 19 other small congregations that might not have the means to give,” said Alexander.

In a span of 72 hours, the youth sold baked goods, washed cars and gave out bottled water for donations. They promoted their events via social media and on a local radio station. They even knocked on doors.

I am so proud of these youth. I want to thank them on behalf of Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba whose East Congo Episcopal Area in Africa so desperately needs this parsonage to continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

As I’ve shared before, the East Congo Area includes three conferences, 17 districts and more than 349,000 members. By comparison, the Nashville Area is two conferences, 14 districts and 201,000 members. This $87,500 is obtainable. Unfortunately, as of July 31, our collective total is just $47,000. That’s an approximate figure based on money received and more gifts we know are on the way.

The youth of Martin First UMC have set a stellar example of hard work and devotion to a most worthy cause. I appreciate them and all who have made and will make contributions.

The Memphis and Tennessee Conferences have each been operating with different deadlines on this initiative, but today I want to announce we are extending the deadline for more donations through Sept. 15. Please, if you have not contributed so far OR if you are able to make an additional gift, read below how you may do so in your conference (online or by mail).

TENNESSEE CONFERENCE DONATION
Online: CLICK HERE
By Mail: Make out checks to “TN Conference UMC” with “East Congo Episcopal Area” in the memo line. Mail to Tennessee Conference Treasurer, 304 South Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 6, Nashville, TN, 37211.

MEMPHIS CONFERENCE DONATION
Online: CLICK HERE
By Mail: Make out checks to “Memphis Conference Treasurer” with “East Congo Parsonage” in the memo line. Mail to Treasurer’s Office, Memphis Conference-United Methodist Church, 24 Corporate Blvd., Jackson, TN 38305.  Churches should use line 50 of the remittance form. Personal checks should include church name to receive Advance Special credit.

~ Bishop Bill McAlilly


Area-wide retreat for Clergy Women, Sep. 26-27

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September 26-27, 2013 | Location: Beersheba Springs Assembly (MAP) | Please RSVP by Sep. 18

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Memphis & TN Conferences | Featuring Bishop Bill McAlilly
Delightful, interesting, thought provoking…moving”

> ONLINE REGISTRATION

THURSDAY
:
Arrive 5:30 pm for registration (either eat before you come or enjoy snacks provided)
7:00: Fun and games/get acquainted
8:00: Bishop McAlilly
9:00: Evening Devotional (Memphis)

FRIDAY
:
7:00 am: Breakfast
9:00: Morning Devotional (Tennessee)
9:30: Conversation
Noon: Lunch
1:00 pm: Local sights
2:30: Closing Conversation
3:30: Depart

> Cost: $60/room (2 per room covering Thursday evening lodging, snacks, and 2 meals on Friday)
Mail registration form and $25.00 deposit by 9/18 to:
316 W. Lytle Suite 101
Murfreesboro, TN  37130


Sanford, the peace of Christ and our birthright gift

Friends,
With the permission of Bishop Ken Carter (Florida Conference), I wish to share the following post.

Bishop McAlilly
– – –
1.jpgThe county seat town of Sanford, with a population of about 50,000, lies in the heart of the Florida Annual (regional) Conference, between Orlando and Daytona Beach.

Ordinarily, Sanford would be of little interest to the major media markets of the United States.  All of that changed with the death of Trayvon Martin and the trial and subsequent not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, which has sparked reflection, debate, and outrage across our nation over the past weekend.

One can set aside the verdict of the Trayvon Martin death, giving the jurors the benefit of the doubt, and still find the events in Sanford deeply disturbing.

One man is dead, another is free.

The deceased was an unarmed young black man. The killer was armed and claimed self-defense, against the background of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The toxic brew of economic scarcity, racial profiling, escalating violence and community destabilization is at the heart of the experience.

We dare not waste the moment
What we make of this event is likely shaped by the media source that has crafted the narrative of this human drama for us. Regardless, I would invite my fellow Anglo citizens to listen to the voices of our African American neighbors — they will hear lamentation, unbelief, rage, pathos, and resignation.

This is a teachable moment, and we dare not waste it.

Beyond the civic conversation, United Methodists are called to reflect on what this means for disciples of Jesus Christ who are called to transform the world.

We can return to the core teachings of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and explore the roots of our own inner violence.

We can read the passion narratives and recall that we follow a Lord who was non-violent.

We can listen again to the last words of Jesus, about the gift of peace that he would leave with us.

We can rediscover the teachings of this Jesus who inspired Mahatma Gandhi and E. Stanley Jones, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the women of Liberia.

The peace of Christ is, in the words of Parker Palmer, our “birthright gift,” and if United Methodists are to make a difference in a violent and fractured world we will learn again, in a countercultural way, what it is to be his disciples.

Claiming the source of our hope
On the Sunday morning following the George Zimmerman verdict, I asked the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sanford to read a letter that I had written to the congregation. I wanted to encourage them, and I wanted to remind them of the connection that we have as United Methodists. But in a deeper way, I wanted to claim the source of our hope, expressed in Ephesians 2:13-16“(13) Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  (14) For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (15) He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, (16) and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross.”

I am praying for people of The United Methodist Church in Sanford. I am praying that they will be an outward and visible sign of God’s peace, justice, reconciliation and healing in the days ahead. I am praying that they, and we, do not waste this teachable moment.

My own commitments are these: to encourage the many congregations in the Florida Conference that reflect the multicultural diversity of their communities, and there are many; to question more publicly the “Stand Your Ground” law of our state and its incompatibility with our General Rule to “First, Do No Harm;” and to bear witness to the cross, which has broken down the dividing wall of hostility that is between us.

This is the peace of Christ, which the world can neither give nor take away. This is our birthright gift. The world is in need of it now.

* Carter is the resident bishop of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.


Pack it up again, stopping hunger

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Coming off the heels of the extravagant generosity expressed by the Tennessee Annual Conference in June, there is another opportunity for Methodists in Middle Tennessee to don hair nets package meals to be delivered to hungry all over the world.

A Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event will be held at the National Gathering of United Methodist Men on Saturday, July 13th at Belmont University. The afternoon packaging shifts starting at 12:15 and 2:15 pm are open to local congregational teams who desire to package meals and receive training to bring hunger action opportunities back to their congregations.

2.jpgYou are encouraged to gather a carload of “mission-minded” folk from your congregations and experience the power of being the hands and feet of Jesus!

In addition to meal packaging, you will learn more about hunger in our world, and how we can all be part of a movement to stop it. This is one case where Christians need to cultivate intolerance…toward world hunger! There will be time available to ask questions and receive tips from leaders, and resources that you can bring back to your church.

Note: This event is open to ANYONE, not just those that are registered to participate in the UMMen conference!

> CLICK HERE to sign up to participate and/or donate at:

For questions or help, you can contact the Calvary UMC Stop Hunger Now Team:

Tyler Petersen (email)

Joe Dunn (email)

Andy Morris (email)

Larry Malone (email)


Stop Hunger Now

SHN.jpgIt was great to see so many of you packaging food with Stop Hunger Now at the Tennessee Annual Conference. Many of you expressed interest in this exciting global mission and desire to know how to involve your congregation.  I want to suggest a way for you and others from your congregation to experience the meal packaging ministry locally.

A Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event will be held at the National Gathering of United Methodist Men on Saturday, July 13that Belmont University.  Afternoon packaging shifts starting at 12:15 pm and 2:15 pm are open to local congregations and individuals who want to join in. Please sign up to participate and/or donate at:

Stop Hunger Now Event: Saturday, July 13th – Belmont University – CLICK HERE for more info about this online

You can stay and enjoy the evening hearing a message by Bishop James Swanson (MS Conference) and a concert by Phil Stacey beginning at 7:00 PM. Details and registration are available at http://ummgathering.org/NG/.

Better still – have your United Methodist Men come be a part of the entire weekend.  It may be a long time before our men will have such easy, affordable access to a United Methodist Men’s Gathering. CLICK HERE for more info or to register.

A team from Calvary United Methodist Church has led their congregation in a successful 100,000 meal packaging event this past February.  They are ready to assist you and your mission team. They are organizing the packaging event at the UMM National Gathering and welcome your team’s involvement. Call to discuss your plans and options with the Calvary UMC Stop Hunger Now Team:

Tyler Petersen – jtylerpeterson@gmail.com – 770-843-0690
Joe Dunn – joedunn615@gmail.com – 615-946-2090
Andy Morris – andymorris@comcast.net – 615-479-4413
Larry Malone – malonelaurence@gmail.com – 615-415-4980

You can be the hands and feet of Christ. Be part of a movement to end hunger in our lifetime. You are asking how to engage the mission field: Come learn how at the UMMGathering! 

Grace and Peace,
Bill McAlilly


Day 40: Walking with God to the ends of the earth

1.jpgActs 1:8
Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Over these last 40 days, you have heard our sisters and brothers bear witness to the love of God in the world. As we gather for the coming sessions of the 2013 Annual Conferences, may we be attentive to the invitation to trust in God as we expect greater things across the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences as we live into being disciples.

My life has been enriched by the stories and prayers that have been offered here.

As we engage in the business of the Annual Conferences, may we be attuned to the movement of God’s spirit.

From Jerusalem
to Judea
to Samaria
to the ends of the earth.

We are called to move out from the places where God has planted us into our communities, our state, our nation, even to the ends of the earth.

May we live our lives as faithful disciples and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to guide our mutual work.

I give thanks to God that we are on this journey together.

Prayer: Speak, Holy God, to the concerns of our hearts. Call us to a deeper walk with you in these days of Holy Conferencing as we seek to be your witnesses across the Nashville Area. Speak, O Lord, for we, your servants are listening. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Bishop William T. McAlilly
Nashville Episcopal Area leader

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 39: God’s transforming presence – Offering Christ to a hurting world

40Days_Logo_day39Philippians 4: 4, 6b, 12
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad!… bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks… I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor.

One afternoon as I was driving down Broadway in Nashville, I could not believe what I saw. There she was again. I had seen her three times before – the bag lady. Each time her very appearance had left me visibly shaken. Her presence had hung like an awful omen in my head. Her eyes were hollow. Her skin stretched across her face tight like a trampoline. The once bright colored dress had now faded and had been reduced to rags. And of course she carried her bag – a lopsided old tattered bag – containing all her earthly possessions. This time – I told myself – I would not pass her by. This time I would stop and speak to her, hand her a few dollars, and give her an encouraging word.

But as I approached her, an amazing thing happened. She greeted me with open arms and a warm loving smile. Her words were simply this, “Hi, I’m Anna. God is so good; God is so good; God is so good to me. And now I just want to thank him, yes thank him for his goodness and grace.” But how could this be? How could someone living in extreme poverty, praise God and give thanks? Does this not seem unusual to give thanks when life has dealt us such devastating blows?

What about each of us? Can we say like Paul: “Rejoice evermore….in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you?” And in giving thanks can we remember all the bag ladies – children, women and men – those who are hungry, ill-clad and homeless – by offering Christ to a hurting world.

Prayer: Gracious and loving God, empower us to give thanks in all things and circumstances. Open our hearts to see those who are lost, alone and suffering in a hurting world. May we become your servants by reaching out in ministry with our brothers and sisters whose grateful hearts can touch us and fill us with your Spirit of always giving thanks. AMEN.

The Rev. Bettye P. Lewis
Director of Connectional Ministries – TN Conference
– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 38: Congregational excellence

1.jpgColossians 3:17 (Read verses 12-17)
Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.

I was walking along the sidewalk and noticed a little boy playing in a yard under the watchful eye of his grandfather. The little boy had a stick in his hand which he was obviously using as a sword. It was also obvious that he was winning this mock battle. As I reached him, he offered me the stick. I told him that he could keep it for himself. He ran over to his grandfather, they talked, the grandfather said, “He really wants you to have this stick.” I dropped to my knees in front of the boy, extended my hands to receive my gift. As he handed it to me he said, “This is a magic sword. It will keep dragons away.” I thanked him for the gift. He was happy and so was I, for I haven’t had a dragon problem since that day.

We have been given a powerful gift to help make our congregations healthy. It isn’t magic, but it is effective. Listen prayerfully to what Paul said: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If we incorporate these two things into our planning and our prayers, greater things can happen. If everything we do is done in the name of Jesus Christ, our ministry will be focused. Any program, any activity, which doesn’t meet this criteria wouldn’t be done, freeing up time for needful things.

Our gratitude will open our hearts and lives to a deeper experience of God’s grace. Gratitude is our response to the love God has given us through Jesus the Christ.

No, it isn’t magic, but this gift of God can keep a congregation healthy and fruitful.

Prayer Focus: Look at all the activities your congregation leads or takes part in and raise this question, “Does everything we do fit the mission of making disciples?” and, how much of your prayer time is spent expressing gratitude to god? How much “thank you,” as compared to, “give me.”

The Rev. Harrell Nation, Jr.
Brownsville District Superintendent,-Memphis Conference

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 37: Missional excellence

1.jpgGenesis 1:1-2
When God began to create the heavens and the earth—the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters—

As a child, I learned this verse as “God sweeping over the chaos the water.” Over time I replaced the phrase “the face of water” with “the chaos of water.” The word chaos grows as an apt metaphor for my life.

Monday morning dawns reflecting on the sermon delivered, just hours ago. But the reflection is replaced by the revelation the next sermon is due in a few days. Looking into the weekly calendar, I find Bible studies, prayer services, and committee meetings. These fill the columns and set time aside. Hospital, nursing home, and home visiting needs attention. Oh, and the phone will ring for an unavoidable crisis.

The family calendar is no lighter. Doctor visits, PTA meetings, and afterschool activities will require time. I haven’t called mom and the dog needs to go to the vet. This is the normal weekly chaos of life. What do I do with this chaos?

Perhaps it is a good thing I learned the first two verses as God swept over “chaos.” Perhaps I should reflect on what God was doing while sweeping over “chaos.” God was creating. God is still creating. Just as God led me through the last sermon, so shall I be led for the next. My cluttered calendar of responsibilities and requirements are reminders, God through Jesus is with me and leading me.

The Good News is this: in all times, even the chaotic times, God through Jesus is with us, loves us, and saves us. Could there be any greater thing than to lead someone through the chaos of life into the peace of Jesus Christ?

Prayer: May I accept God’s presence in the midst of my chaos. May I see each event, requirement, or responsibility as an opportunity to share the Good News and to do greater things.

The Rev. C. Kevin Marston
Chairperson, Fellowship of Local Pastors & Associate Members-TN Conference

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 36: Transformational presence

1.jpgJohn 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Our final morning in Jerusalem took us to the Garden Tomb. My spirit was heavy on this last day of our pilgrimage. What a beautiful place! What a heavy heart I carried! As we walked, I noticed along the side of the pathway that there was a young, mid-thirtyish man kneeling next to a tree in the garden and praying. He was stocky built, wearing a blue shirt, Middle Eastern in his skin tones. His hands were resting on the tree with his head bowed in prayer. I noticed a shiny gold wedding ring on his left hand. I don’t know why I noticed him. He was being quite unobtrusive in his quiet sanctuary.

I sought a path to a deeper garden spot to be alone for a quiet moment of meditation before re-boarding our bus. I sat down on a single concrete bench. In a few moments, I was distracted by the sound of a hedge cutter being started immediately behind me. As I turned toward the sound of the noise, I saw the young man who had been knelt in prayer beside the tree along the pathway when we had entered the garden. Although I never saw his face either time, it was the same shirt, the same mid-thirtyish stocky build, the Middle Eastern skin tones and the shiny gold ring on his left hand. My heart was strangely warmed as I realized that it had been the caretaker of the garden whom I had seen knelt in prayer. That was a precious thought to me. I got up from my seat and moved back toward my group to get on the bus to depart for our next stop.

The next day after arriving home, while thinking and praying, I heard clearly and distinctly a statement that would change my life forever, “Diana, Mary thought I was the gardener, too.” Oh, my goodness! I can’t begin to find words to describe what I felt at that point. I cried the rest of that day, and into the next. I saw Jesus! It was Him! I actually saw my risen Lord in the garden near the tomb where His body had been laid over 2000 years ago; along the path where Mary had encountered her risen Lord, mistaking Him to be the gardener, until He spoke to her and her eyes were opened, as had been mine (John 20:15-16).

Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to see your Presence. Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our hearts to be transformed by your love. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

The Rev. Dr. Diana M. DeWitt
Chairperson, Spiritual Formation Team-TN Conference
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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions