Welcoming a Stranger

Matthew 10: 40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to travel to a lot of places. In Southern Arizona, I got to get up close to the Saguaro cactus. The ones that stand up tall and look like a person with arms. In Wyoming, I climbed up Pilot Butte and watched as wild horses ran in the open high desert that the pioneers once crossed along the Oregon trail.  In Pennsylvania, I worked in 18” of snow along the Susquehanna River. Along the river are a lot of markers where some of the revolutionary war battles had taken place. In Louisiana, working in the swamp areas, I often wondered if anyone would find my body if I ran across an alligator or other wild animals!

My best memory of my travels happened in the small South Texas town of Zapata. I had been working for two weeks there and still had about ten more days before I would finish and could go home. My client told me on Saturday that he would have to take off on Sunday because of a family gathering he had to do. I decided that Sunday morning that I would get up and go to church. I put on my best pair of jeans and shirt and walked into the United Methodist Church of Zapata. The Rev. Jim Orr was pastor at that time. When I walked into the church, I soon realized that I was the youngest person there! There was only about twenty people in the church. Jim welcomed me to the service and apologized for the “small” crowd. He explained that the “snowbirds”, (people from colder climates) had left last week to go home and they were back to their usual attendees. We sang the old songs from the Cokesbury hymnal and did the traditional service. I still have the service bulletin in my traveling bible.

After church they invited me to go to lunch with them. We talked and got to know each other. I explained what I did for a living and about my attendance at my home church. It was a great relaxing day for me.

When I think back about that time, I look at how we welcome people at our church.  I think about the Rev. Emmitt Barrow and his pie ministry, welcoming visitors to our church. My mother and dad received a pie when they first started to come to Greggton.  How Sonya Cline and her welcoming team meet new people at the end of our services and invite them to lunch. Then there is our outreach ministry where we take communion and meals to our shut ins. My mother in law really appreciates the visits and meals.

Let us be the LIGHT for our community!

You never know how welcoming a stranger can sometimes make their day.

John Hargrave

Blessings…yep, blessings.

Well it has been 9 weeks of working from home now, 9 weeks of different, 9 weeks of chaos in the world, 9 weeks of…blessings.  Yep, blessings.

I remember vividly the weekend when things changed.  Barry and I drove to Jefferson to check in on my parents.  My grandfather was already in lock-down at the assisted living facility, so no seeing him.  We sat and had a meal together, but there were no hugs at the end of the night.  If you know me at all, you know I am a hugger!  My love language is touch.  I was struggling to find the joy and blessing…

That next Monday I found myself packing up things from my office to work from home.  I realized how very blessed I am to be equipped to do so, and blessed to still have a job, when so many others don’t.

Then I try the grocery pickup, and discover that many things are not available (yes, toilet paper for one)!  But through this whole ordeal, I have learned to use what I have, not waste, and am blessed to have food on my table.  I also realized I had an abundance of yeast, and started baking bread for my neighbors, which brings me much joy.

Working from home and not having extra things to do (I am so used to being extra busy), I have rediscovered the art of walking my dog.  He loves the attention, and I have been able to meet folks in my neighborhood and get to know folks better.  Such a joy and a blessing!

As the weeks go by, we read all the opinions in the news or on social media.  Some folks are on one side and think everything is OK and all of this is crazy.  Others are scared to walk out their front door.  Most people are in the middle and have varying opinions.  You may walk in to a store and you will see some folks wearing masks, while others do not.  We see in the media a lot of heartache, hurting, and anger.  But I choose to seek out the joy and blessings.  The people making masks to give to people on the front lines, the people passing out food, neighbors sharing meals (I have been blessed with this twice), friends delivering cookies (I have been blessed with this also).  We have all been blessed by seeing the sacrifice that doctors and nurses are making every day, and are reminded that they have always been on the front lines.  And with not being able to physically Worship in person, many are learning to praise God as a family again, and in so many new ways and on a deeper level.  Parents are spending more time with their kids, kids are spending more time with their families.

So my LIGHT moment is definitely about listening to the Holy Spirit – I am listening and observing, and seeing so many blessings out of this chaos.  Also, I choose joy…joy over the madness, and I choose to let God move through me to hopefully share some of that joy with others. 

I pray that all of you can find your JOY in our new normal.

Sonya Cline

Reflected LIGHT

 

Recently I needed to take my lawn mower in to be repaired, and having seen a “lawnmower” repair sign posted along the highway, got a feeling that I should to take a chance. Upon arriving, I was greeted by the repairman, Abe, and together we unloaded the mower. For some reason it seemed to be an opportune time to start a conversation about recent severe weather, and then the Corona-virus. It was an easy next step to move to the question of where God might be in all this. He was attentive, so I continued discussing the impact this virus was having on lives, businesses, gatherings, and whether God might be using this to draw our attention to Him, His churches and their worship services. Abe remained engaged, so I proceeded with how our church was responding to the these changes, how we were reaching out to others, how we were providing worship experiences online, gently inviting him to connect with us. After going on at some length, I paused so that he might ask questions or respond.

After a moment, slightly smiling, he related that God is in control, that life was never in our control, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”…. “All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”…. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow…” rather think on these things “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Regarding fears about financial and material worries, he suggested perhaps our prayer should just be “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I had thought that I was sharing LIGHT with him, but instead he was the one who witnessed to me. I doubt that we had much in common from the perspective of the world, politics, education, skill level (he was the one who had a useful skill, he could fix lawnmowers), but the one thing we had in common was the one thing that really mattered…Christ.

In sharing the LIGHT, perhaps we are not so much the givers as we are receivers.

In our shared experience in this global pandemic, even though we are physically separated from one another, we journey together, not just here, but together, as brothers and sisters, in our world, the creation that God gave us to steward. Perhaps, if we keep our eyes on Christ, we may become spiritually closer than ever before.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Kris King

Love Your Neighbor

One of the best inventions is the garage door opener. Don’t you agree?  It allows you to get into your house without getting wet if it is raining.  It lets you avoid the sun. It makes it easy at night to feel safe. Great invention.

Yet, it is also one of the worst inventions. It gets you into your house without having to see any of your neighbors.  We don’t know our neighbors very well anymore.  I have a carport and yet I only know the name of two of my neighbors. I know nothing about any of them and they know little about me.

So, if we don’t know our neighbors, how can we change that?  Greggton UMC is surrounded by neighbors we don’t know. We don’t know their names, we don’t know their likes and dislikes, we know nothing.  Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, so wouldn’t the first thing we should do is to get to know them?  But, how do we do that? How can we show our literal neighbors Jesus?

In last Sunday’s message I used the scripture from John 14:1-14. Jesus says to the remaining disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God, have faith in me.”

Jesus goes on to say that he is, indeed, returning to his Father in heaven, but his journey to heaven will enable him to prepare OUR place in eternity, to prepare OUR home in the Father’s heart.

Jesus says, “I will come and take you with me, so that we can be together for all eternity. I am the way, the truth, the life.” It is the apostle Philip who then asks, “Show us the Father.” And it’s that question which gives Jesus the opportunity to say: “Whoever has seen the Father has seen me.” In other words, ‘If you know me, you know the Father.’

How can we show our neighbors the Father? How can we be like Jesus?  Jesus, the one who showed mercy. Jesus the one ate with people who didn’t fit the mold. Jesus who showed love to a woman who was struggling.  Jesus who fed those who were hungry for hope and for food. Jesus who showed us everything we need to do in order to love our neighbor.  How do we translate that to our neighbors?  Tell me, really, tell me; what should the community of Greggton UMC be doing to love the community of Greggton/PineTree?  What do we do first to show our neighbors the Father and the Son?

John 14:11-12 (The Message) “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it.

Rev. Becky Love

Seeing God’s Light

God’s LIGHT comes in many forms.   When I first got Pastor Ricky’s email asking me to share about God’s LIGHT, I was going to politely decline.  Not that I do not believe that God is all around us and working our lives.  I honestly just did not know what I was going to write about.   Then I remembered that it was Greggton’s week to “host” family promise.  I volunteered to make dinner on Friday.  I had decided I would make our family favorite spaghetti bake.  This time, I decided to make some for Family Promise, for my family, and for a church family that has been instrumental in our time at Greggton.  We all shared the same meal, just miles apart. 

Feeding people is such an important task.  It has always been important to me.  I think food is my “Love Language”.  My boys know that feeding others is a passion.    When I told them, we were making food for Family Promise and The Clines, they were eager to help.  We baked cookies, made spaghetti and salad (from the GAP garden).  That afternoon, I could feel that God was in my kitchen, telling me we were doing just what we were supposed to just when we were supposed to be doing it.

Barry and Sonya have (literally) been in our lives since the first day we visited Greggton.  Sonya made sure we got to a START class and they were there to answer any questions we had.  They have invited us into their home and fun events to meet more people.  In our every day lives they continue to be involved.  They are both there helping and volunteering with our kids during youth group activities.  At GAP, Barry is a beloved volunteer driver.  They give of their time and talents to our church in ways that constantly amaze me.  They constantly pour into not just our family, but so many others.  I feel God’s LIGHT from them all the time. 

Sometimes, sharing GOD’s LIGHT is a simple meal or gesture of friendship.  But you never know what a difference it is to the person on the other end.  I hope that others feel God’s LIGHT we share. 

Tabitha Johnson

Our Mission Makes Us One

Every Sunday morning my church family begins worship with three statements of faith. We join in reciting our mission and vision statements, and the creed of the early church known as the Apostles Creed. The Creed is the words of the ancients expressing who God is and what it means to be the church. We say I believe in the communion of the saints. It’s a great reminder that we are bound together not by time or space, but in our unity in God. We share in the mission statement of the United Methodist Church, that we are here “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” It’s a great reminder that our focus is not on ourselves but on Jesus Christ and on living and helping others live as followers of Jesus. Then we say that our vision, Greggton’s vision- is that more and more people are living in and sharing the LIGHT of Christ. Those words remind us that reaching as many people as possible is our passion.

Making disciples means that we are helping each other grow, but it also means that we are connecting to new people. It is why we value the folks that have been a part of our church family for a long time and people in new places equally. The early church learned the art of ‘both’. It wasn’t an either-or world. If the church had settled in, none of us would be here today. There would be no Greggton if the earlier followers had not stepped outside themselves to help new people in new places come to know Christ. It is the same with us today. Our mission in places like the Dinner Church and Trinity is essential as we live out our vision to help more and more people come to live in and share the LIGHT of Christ. Jesus said, “Go, make of all disciples.” We can only be the disciples God has called us to be when we said yes to Jesus ‘Go.’

I am as grateful that we take that ‘Go’ seriously. I am grateful that you are blessing lives in many places to the glory of God.

With Hope and Joy in Christ,

Ricky Ricks, Pastor

Jana, Ralph, and gratitude

I’ve got to admit that this is a challenging week. A longtime friend of mine, Jana, who is also younger than I died unexpectedly. I had the honor of preaching her funeral on Tuesday. On Monday, we received the news that a pastor friend of mine, Ralph, died in a car wreck.  There are families among us (you are loved) who are facing the prospect of death and my heart aches for them in this season of their lives.

In the middle of all this, I was gifted by two readings. The first is from AJ Jacobs book, “Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey.  Here is the quote:

In Roman times, when a general was given a triumphal parade, a slave stood in the chariot with him, whispering in his ear that he was mortal. Death reminders were popular in the Renaissance as well. Many classical paintings have skulls or timepieces in the background to remind viewers of the fleetingness of their earthly existence… When it works, it reminds me to savor life, to stress less, to forgive more easily. I hate the phrase YOLO (You only live once) since it can be an easy excuse to act like an idiot and say, whack mailboxes with a baseball bat. But I do believe in WOLO: We only live once. Live life to the fullest as long as you allow other people to do the same and don’t interfere with the U.S. mail.

Then my friend that died suddenly, Jana, left this prophetic post on her Facebook page in January: Not everyone is given the chance to grow old. So appreciate and thank God for every single day of your life.

So I am emerging from these days with a renewed commitment to appreciate each day and thank God for it. I am renewing my commitment to stress less, to practice mercy and forgiveness. I am renewing my commitment to live for ‘we’ instead of ‘me’.

So let me begin with this:  Thank you for all the ways you bless my life, bless our church family, and bless the world.  Never forget that you are loved by an amazing God. Thank you.

With Hope and Joy in Christ,

Ricky

 

 

 

 

On General Conference

The world-wide leadership of the United Methodist Church met over the last four days to discuss the church’s struggle over same-sex marriage and LBGTQ clergypersons. There are people who in good faith make arguments on all sides of this issue.

The outcome was the adoption of the Traditional Plan which affirms the present stand of the church that disallows same-sex marriages in United Methodist Churches and prohibits practicing homosexual persons from serving as clergypersons. Greater accountability was also put into place. There was also an ‘exit plan’ put in place for those clergypersons and/or churches that choose not to live in compliance with these measures.

At the close of the Conference, questions were raised about the ‘constitutionality’ of some of these measures. Those questions will be addressed at a meeting of the Judicial Council in April.

What all this means for the United Methodist Church is still being sorted out.

What does this mean for us?

Today, I rose with the same commitment that I had 4 days ago- to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our vision is the same – that more and more people are living in and sharing the LIGHT of Christ.

Today the United Methodist Women went to love on the students at Kilgore College Wesley Foundation. The women’s prayer group met to pray to a merciful and forgiving God. You are opening your Bibles to read the Gospel of Luke, and blessing people as you go through your day. On Thursday our afterschool ministry will welcome 40 kids into the love of Christ. This weekend our many our confirmation class and their mentors will be on retreat for their spiritual growth.  On Sunday we will be trained to welcome people through Family Promise into that same love and welcome people dealing with grief into a community that wants to help them live their best lives possible. We are hard at work seeking new ways that we can share the love of Christ with more and more people.

We will keep our focus of loving God and loving our neighbors with all we are. That’s who we are and who we will be as the people of Greggton United Methodist Church.

If you would like more information about the General Conference, check out the news from the United Methodist News Service:  United Methodist News Service <NewsDesk@umcom.org>

You can also find Texas Annual Conference responses at txcumc.org.

Our bishop will be doing a live Facebook feed that you can watch on Saturday, March 2nd at 10am. Bishop Jones will host a live feed to update us on GC2019. This will not be an event you can attend, however, you can tune in at www.txcumc.org/live. Following this feed, you can email questions to Bishop Jones via communications@txcumc.org. He will do his best to answer each one as we navigate the decisions made and their impact on our conference.

May we continue to Listen to the Holy Spirit, and live where God leads us.

With Hope and Joy in Christ,

Ricky Ricks, Pastor

 

Where Have You Seen God at Work?

Have you been asked where have you seen God at work in your life this week? Well, let me tell you where I saw him working. When you travel East down highway 80 and cross Eastman road on Saturday mornings, begin looking left and you will soon see a vacant lot with lots of people and cars there. This is the location of the JESUS BURGER CELEBRATION. Alan Johnson, a Pine Tree graduate, is the spiritual leader who preaches a sermon every Saturday morning around 11:00 a.m. to any and all who will come. You will see chairs lined up for the people and lots of volunteers coming to welcome you to the meeting. Next door there is a building where anyone can go to get free clothing and maybe some furniture. There are lots of volunteers in a food line preparing the hot meal that each person will get when they sit and listen to the sermon. Alan preaches Jesus and his love and creates an atmosphere of joy and love and welcome for everyone. The bible says that if you give food or clothes to anyone, you for it to Jesus. God was active Saturday morning.

-Sondra Allen

 

Understanding General Conference 2019  

The Special Session of General Conference 2019 is right around the corner, February 23-26, 2019. This gathering is the culmination of much discussion about the direction of our denomination concerning human sexuality, including how marriage is defined by our denomination, whether self-avowed practicing homosexual persons may be ordained, and whether churches are permitted to conduct same gender wedding ceremonies. Delegates will explore ways to unify the church. As such, the decisions that will be made will significantly shape the future of the global United Methodist Church.

Our delegates will be voting on three plans: Traditional, Connectional and One Church. You can find Bishop Scott J. Jones’ unbiased and thorough explanations of the plans by visiting https://www.txcumc.org/gc2019.

We understand this is a complicated topic, and within the Texas Annual Conference we have individuals from varying theological and ethical perspectives. Over the next several weeks, we will do our best to keep you informed of new developments and how this impacts the United Methodist Church, as well as your local congregation. Together, we can truly find a way forward to continue toward our higher purpose of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

How to Pray

Please join us in praying for the General Conference, the delegates and for the United Methodist Church as a whole.

  1. Wisdom – Pray for supernatural wisdom for all delegates attending the General Conference as they consider each of the plans and decide what option best enables the United Methodist Church to continue its mission. For the Lord gives wisdom; from God’s mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2)
  2. Unity – Pray for unity of spirit and mission between delegates and leadership. Though we many not be of one opinion, we can be of one heart in our desire to reach the world with the love of Jesus Christ. I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17)
  3. Future – Pray for the future of the United Methodist Church. No matter what is decided at the General Conference, we have a divine mission before us – the same mission that has been our focus since our founding. Pray that our churches are able to come together to continue advancing the Gospel to every country, community and neighborhood in the world. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5)