Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. Sunday Worship - For the season of Lent our preaching focus will be on the Parables of Jesus. This weekend we will explore the idea of "Kaleidoscope" from the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37We will also celebrate the sacrament of communion.

Bring a friend and come experience God as we turn all that we are over to the One that loved us first!

2. Lenten Studies - As the season of Lent falls upon us we are offering several opportunities for you to observe and practice our Lenten disciplines. In addition to the preaching series each week several classes will be utilizing the Parables of Jesus as their focus in small groups. You can participate in those studies on Sunday mornings at 11am with Mike Hanna and on Wednesday evenings with Pastor Daryl in the Sanctuary and with Nancy Perkins in the Library and with the Young Adult class in room 103. We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to participate in this Lenten study as we seek to draw ourselves closer to Christ.

3. #picturelent - As we journey in the season of Lent, another way you can prepare your heart and mind is with the daily devotional program entitled "#PictureLent" from our Conference's Life Enrichment Center. You can click here to sign up and receive them each day by email. There are also links there for other ways you can participate in this season of spiritual preparation on social media like Facebook and Instagram.




4. Looking Ahead to Holy Week 
We will have some special opportunities to commemorate Holy Week with special services at the end of March. Mark your calendars now for these special events:

* Maundy Thursday worship in the church sanctuary, Thursday March 24 at 7pm
* Good Friday worship, Friday March 25 at noon - a combined worship service with several UM churches and pastors participating to be held at New Covenant UMC
* Easter Egg Hunt and Family Picnic, Saturday March 26 from 11am-2pm
* Easter Sunday Sunrise Worship outside, Sunday March 27 at 6:45am



Have a great weekend and we will see you this weekend!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Midweek Moment

This past Sunday was a great day of celebration in worship as we dedicated the new 2nd floor addition to our Education Building and let people tour the new facilities after each service. We are so thankful for the work of our church leadership who provided great assistance and guidance during this time of building including Jim Latham (Church Council Chair), Jim Thatcher (Church Finance Chair), John Houvenair (Building Committee Chair) and the other members of our building committee: Ann Petty, Don Anderson, Hal Swope, Mindy Standifer and Harold Perkins. We are especially thankful to Mike Hanna, our lay leader and general contractor, for the excellent work of his company Matthews-Hanna Construction and for their diligent pursuit of excellence and fiscal management. 

The tours began with the new choir rehearsal suite downstairs and then headed upstairs to see all of the new classrooms there. We heard lots of great compliments about the new spaces and how well everything turned out. Glory to God! 
















We also unveiled the new completely refitted Early Response Team Trailer in the parking lot and folks were able to tour that and learn about this ministry after each of the services. It was a wonderful Sunday full of excitement and celebrations!



I look forward to seeing you all in worship this weekend as we continue to mark the season of Lent!

Blessings,


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Midweek Moment

The season of Lent is upon us as Ash Wednesday marked its beginning. Many of us have some memory of Lent and for most it is usually associated with the practice of giving up something for those 40 days. But what is Lent? What is the purpose and reason for this season? Our General Conference Office put together a bit of information about Lent that I wanted to share with you. This is written by Penny Ford and very informative.

What is Lent?

Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God.

When is Lent?

It’s the forty days before Easter. Lent excludes Sundays because every Sunday is like a little Easter. Basically, it’s about one-tenth of a year (like a tithe of time). Mardi Gras is the day before Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday. This year it’s from February 10 (Ash Wednesday) to March 27 (Easter), 2016.

Mardi Gras? What does that have to do with JESUS??

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday.” It refers to the day before Lent starts. Since Lent always starts on a Wednesday, the day before is always a Tuesday. And it’s called “Fat” or “Great” because it’s associated with great food and parties.

In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast! Through the years Mardi Gras has evolved (in some places) into a pretty wild party with little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity. Oh well. But Christians still know it’s origin, and hang onto the true Spirit of the season.

So the real beginning of Lent is Ash Wednesday?

Yes. Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras, usually begins with a service where we recognize our mortality, repent of our sins, and return to our loving God. We recognize life as a precious gift from God, and re-turn our lives towards Jesus Christ. We may make resolutions and commit to change our lives over the next forty days so that we might be more like Christ. In an Ash Wednesday service, usually a minister or priest marks the sign of the cross on a person’s forehead with ashes.

Why ashes?

In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/whatever. Repentance, because long ago, when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” (scratchy clothing) to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.

Where do the ashes come from?

On what we now call Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem while people waved palms and cheered him on. Less than a week later, Jesus was killed. The palms that were waved in joy became ashes of sorrow. We get ashes for Ash Wednesday by saving the palms from Palm Sunday, burning them, and mixing them with a little oil. It’s symbolic.

What do Christians do with ashes?

At an Ash Wednesday service, folks are invited to come forward to receive the ashes. The minister will make a small cross on your forehead by smudging the ashes. While the ashes remind us of our mortality and sin, the cross reminds us of Jesus’ resurrection (life after death) and forgiveness. It’s a powerful, non-verbal way that we can experience God’s forgiveness and renewal as we return to Jesus.

So what is LENT?

At Jesus’ baptism the sky split open, the Spirit of God, which looked like a dove, descended and landed on Jesus, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, My Beloved, with whom I am pleased.” Afterward, as told in Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus was sent into the wilderness by the Spirit where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. During his time there he was tempted by Satan and found clarity and strength to resist temptation. Afterwards, he was ready to begin his ministry.

Why “DO” Lent? How do I start?

Are you searching for something more? Tired of running in circles, but not really living life with direction, purpose or passion? It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the drama of classes, relationships, family, and work. Our lives are filled with distractions that take us away from living a life with Christ. We try to fill the emptiness inside us with mindless TV, meaningless chatter, stimulants, alcohol, too many activities or other irrelevant stuff. We run away from life and from God.

Lent is a great time to “repent” — to return to God and re-focus our lives to be more in line with Jesus. It’s a 40 day trial run in changing your lifestyle and letting God change your heart. You might try one of these practices for Lent:

FASTING: Some people have been known to go without food for days. But that’s not the only way to fast. You can fast by cutting out some of the things in your life that distract you from God. Some Christians use the whole 40 days to fast from candy, TV, soft drinks, cigarettes or meat as a way to purify their bodies and lives. You might skip one meal a day and use that time to pray instead. Or you can give up some activity like worry or reality TV to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation. What do you need to let go of or “fast” from in order to focus on God? What clutters your calendar and life? How can you simplify your life in terms of what you eat, wear or do?

SERVICE: Some Christians take something on for Christ. You can collect food for the needy, volunteer once a week to tutor children, or work for reform and justice in your community. You can commit to help a different stranger, co-worker or friend everyday of Lent. Serving others is one way we serve God.

PRAYER: Christians also use Lent as a time of intentional prayer. You can pray while you walk, create music or art as a prayer to God, or savor a time of quiet listening. All can be ways of becoming more in tune with God.

This can be a great time to refocus, re-center, and repent as we draw ourselves closer to God and prepare our hearts and minds for Easter and all of the wonderful grace and mercy we receive as the righteousness of Christ is credited to each and every one of us.

Have a great week and I will see you Sunday,

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. Sunday Worship - For the season of Lent our preaching focus will be on the Parables of Jesus. We began at Ash Wednesday with the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and this weekend we will explore the idea of "Ready Set Grow" from the Parable of the Sower and the Seed in Matthew 13:1-8, 13-23. We will also welcome new members who will join our Community UMC family at all three services!

Bring a friend and come experience God as we turn all that we are over to the One that loved us first!

2. Lenten Studies - As the season of Lent falls upon us we are offering several opportunities for you to observe and practice our Lenten disciplines. In addition to the preaching series each week several classes will be utilizing the Parables of Jesus as their focus in small groups. You can participate in those studies on Sunday mornings at 11am with Mike Hanna (starting this Sunday 2/14), and on Wednesday evenings with Pastor Daryl in the Sanctuary and with Nancy Perkins in the Library and with the Young Adult class in room 103 (starting on Wednesday 2/17). We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to participate in this Lenten study as we seek to draw ourselves closer to Christ.

3. #picturelent - As we journey in the season of Lent, another way you can prepare your heart and mind is with the daily devotional program entitled "#PictureLent" from our Conference's Life Enrichment Center. You can click here to sign up and receive them each day by email. There are also links there for other ways you can participate in this season of spiritual preparation on social media like Facebook and Instagram.






4. Thank You!!! - A huge thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who came out last weekend to support our Winterfest community event! Despite the cold and wet weather we had 3,200 people come through our campus that day! It simply would not have been possible without all of our wonderful volunteers and we are so thankful for how you gave of your time and energy and effort to love on the people of our community.



Have a great weekend and we will see you this weekend!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Midweek Moment

Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins our 40 day observance of Lent in preparation for Easter. Tonight we will gather in the sanctuary at 6:15pm to pray, reflect and receive the mark of the cross upon our foreheads in ashes. Often people mark Lent by giving up something - to help them identify with Christ's suffering for us. At staff meeting this week I shared the following poem; one I discovered several years ago that I always remember at this time of year. Because Lent should be about more than just giving up something - if we choose to participate in Lent in that way, we ought to replace things we give up with something else that draws us closer to God......

Blessings, 



Give Up (Anonymous)

Give up grumbling.
Instead, "in everything give thanks."

Give up 10-15 minutes in bed.
Instead, us that time in prayer. 

Give up looking at other people's worst points.
Instead, concentrate on their best ones. 

Give up speaking unkindly.
Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. 

Give up your worries.
Instead, trust God with them.

Give up hatred or dislike of anyone.
Instead, learn to love.

Give up the fear which prevents Christian witness.
Instead, seek courage to speak of your faith to others. 

Give up TV one evening a week.
Instead, visit some lonely or sick person.

Give up buying anything but essentials for yourself.
Instead, give that money to God's work or someone in need.

Give up judging by appearances and by the standards of the world. 
Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. Sunday Worship - Over the last several months we have frequently talked about our role as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. We have looked at ways to be those conduits by which God's Kingdom breaks forth into our reality, in the here and now. However, in order for us to be as effective as possible, we all need to be on the same page. Each and everyone of us needs to know our God, we need to know ourselves, and we need to know what it means to live life together.

Our current preaching series entitled, 3 Simple Questions seeks to answer those questions so we can ensure we are all moving towards the same goal, sharing the same love of God, and truly living our life of faith together. This week we will wrap up this series as we explore question 3: Who Are We Together? Bring a friend and come experience God as we turn all that we are over to the One that loved us first!





2. Winterfest! - It is coming soon! Our children count down by sleeps until big events....just TWO more sleeps left! YAY!!!!

Saturday, February 6th, we will celebrate our annual Winterfest! We are definitely looking forward to experiencing our first CUMC Winterfest as your pastors and we are so excited!

This is a wonderful opportunity for us to love on the community of Fruitland Park as we provide FREE food, games, music, entertainment and great hospitality.

Please be in prayer for this important event and we look forward to seeing you all there!





3. New Member Class - Our next New Member Class is coming up this month as well. It will be Monday, February 8th and Tuesday, February 9th. Monday night will include dinner and both sessions will go from 6pm to approximately 8:30pm. If you have been attending CUMC for a while and want to take the step of commitment in joining the church, we welcome and invite you to attend. Please contact the church office at 787-1829 or email the office by clicking here to RSVP for this class. We hope to see you there!






4. Ash Wednesday - We want to invite you all to our Ash Wednesday service on February 10th as we begin Lent together. We will gather for a time of reflection, anointing, and to have ashes placed on our foreheads as we begin this season. It will begin at 6:15pm in the Sanctuary and everyone is invited. As a result there will be no Wednesday night small groups next week, so everyone will have a chance to come a be a part of this special time.





5. Lenten Studies - As the season of Lent falls upon us we are offering several opportunities for you to observe and practice our Lenten disciplines. Our preaching series each week will be entitled, the Parables of Jesus and those messages will be the basis for the church wide study we are beginning as well. You can participate in those studies on Sunday mornings at 11am with Mike Hanna (starting on 2/14), and on Wednesday evenings with Pastor Daryl in the Sanctuary and with Nancy Perkins in the Library (starting on 2/17).

We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to participate in our Lenten tradition as we seek to draw ourselves closer to Christ.





Have a great weekend and we will see you this weekend!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Midweek Moment

Pastor Debbie and I have been experiences countless “firsts” as we live out our faith among you all. Our first Advent this past December. Our first Winterfest this coming Saturday. This list could go on and on and since so many things happen in the life of this church our “firsts” have been plentiful.

Each and every day is a new adventure for us as we continue to learn more about you all, our new family. One of the many things we have learned is that there are A LOT of people here at Community; and that is a wonderful thing! It tells us that the Spirit of God is blowing through this church and its people. It shows others that we are excited about our faith and that we are sharing that excitement with others.

One of the things we teach in our new member classes is that our church must never stop growing, because that is a Biblical truth. Colossians tells us, “Under Christ’s control, the whole Body is nourished…and grows as God wants it to grow.” Many studies have bared this truth as they conclude churches go in two directions – growth or death. There is no such thing as a stagnant church that is healthy.

Now I understand that church numbers are not the end all, be all of church health and vitality. They are simply one tool of many to help us see where we are in fulfilling our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

With that in mind, I have an article that I would like to share with you all from blogger, Len Wilson. Len has spent countless hours compiling the average worship attendance from United Methodist churches across our country. In the article he explains his methodology and purpose. As you peruse the list you might find some churches you have heard of or even a few in which you have worshiped. I want to encourage you read all the way to end.

To read the article, just click here. Go ahead and read it. I will wait right here for you to return. Seriously, go and read it. I promise I will be right here when you get back.

Did you notice something? I am sure you saw that we were not on the list. But did you keep reading? All the way to the bottom? To the last section entitled, “Four churches average just under 1000 AWA…”? Did you see the name of the last church they mentioned? It was us!!

My friends, we are growing and we are growing fast. More and more people are coming to us to experience God and the love of Christ. More and more people are coming back because they feel the power of the Holy Spirit in this community. How wonderful is that! Many of you have shared with Pastor Debbie and I about the opportunities you have seized to talk to other people about your church and how you have invited them to come and worship with us.

I want to encourage you to keep talking about your church. I want to invite you to continue looking for those moments when the door opens and you can invite people to come and join our family. We have a wonderful story in the form of the Gospels that have to share with all people. I know that with all of us working together, there are tremendous things in store for us as the body of Christ called Community United Methodist Church!

Have a great week and I will see you this weekend!