July 28, 2017

The end of the summer break is an interesting time for students and their families. Feelings about the end of another time off from school can range from sadness or fear all the way to joy and celebration. I always felt a bit excited at the end of summer break. While I really enjoyed having the time to do as I pleased with my days, I really enjoyed the energy that surrounded the return to school. The shopping trips for new clothes and school supplies, the meetings with new teachers and coaches, and all of the possibilities that a new year had. It all made starting a school year seem like an adventure.

One of the very best parts of heading back to school in August was being able to share stories about everything that I had been up to over the past few months with my friends, as well as hearing the same from them. It was always great to hear about what fun, exciting, and frightening things people could do when they were in-between school years. Without the constant march of homework, practice, tests, lessons, and clubs, young people and their families found time to climb mountains, reconnect with distant relatives, rebuild car engines, and serve people around the world, among other things. 

Breaks in the action provide us with great opportunities to have new experiences, find rest, build on our knowledge, and prepare for the next big thing, which is what Thrive Student Ministry has been focusing on over this summer break. They have been leading and participating in worship in a wide variety of places; they have connected in community with old and new friends; they have grown in their faith as they gathered for youth group on Sunday nights; and they have served in the church and in communities of need, both in and out of the country. We are so proud of each and every one of our students, because they chose to use their time this summer to be intentional about getting closer to God and his Kingdom. 

I hope that you all can join us on Sunday morning to hear more about how God has worked in and through the young people of Thrive, as well as how God can continue to work through the whole St. Andrew’s community.

July 21, 2017

11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, 13, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it its written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:11-15 (NIV)

Greetings! I am Mrs. Toni Parrish and a member here at St. Andrew's UMC. This Sunday, we will celebrate the ministry and mission of United Methodist Women. I am also a member of
United Methodist Women.

The United Methodist Women’s organization is a faith-based membership organization of laywomen within The United Methodist Church. We are organized for mission and our members are committed to growing as disciples of Jesus Christ in community with other women and building the lives of women, children and youth. United Methodist Women has been in mission for nearly 150 years!

This Sunday, not only will we learn a bit of the history of UMW and how the “foremothers” of this ministry were inspired and responded to God’s call, but we will also hear the story of a woman in the Bible who was considered an “outcast” and how she responded to God’s call!

Two weeks ago, Jennifer Blessing shared with us, “When God calls, there is a power to action that inspires us.” Last week, Dr. Dan Parrish shared, “As we open the scriptures to define the goal that God has given to our response, we want to also look at the source of our vision for fulfilling that goal.”

Talk about answering God's call! Those women, so long ago, who heard God’s Call, who felt that power to action, who came together to define the goal that God had given them and then responded by taking up the mantle to fulfill that call from God! Are we ready to put our trust in God as we put on the mantle that has been given to each of us? Do we have the beautiful feet that Paul proclaims or are our feet still in need of cleaning? I invite you Sunday to join us as we open this word from God together.

July 14, 2017

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

As I sat to prepare this article for the Friday Connection – I took a few minutes to reflect on some of the many changes that have taken place in the course of my lifetime. I’m sure you will have some of your own that could be added as well. My first recollection of a phone line was the party line we shared in our house in St. Cloud, and then we moved to single line extensions. I remember watching Superman as he ducked into a phone booth to change from Clark Kent to his Superman outfit. I remember the large building it took to house the computer when I entered college in 1969 – knowing that the computers in our home are now more powerful than that large 3-story structure. I thought about growing up with phonograph albums, then 8-tracks, then cassettes and later to CDs and now downloadable .mp3 albums that we store and carry on our phones. I remember the 20" black and white TV that the family got around at night to watch the three or four channels it offered, then in 1963 our family got a 30” color TV and now we have TVs that offer a 3D image on 70" - 90” screens and projectors that can be shown on our walls. TV’s used to come in cabinets that were considered furniture, now we place our big screens on the walls of our home.

Things have also changed in the church during that same period of time. We used to have UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship) but now most youth don’t even know what that is. We sang out of the Cokesbury hymnal with its brown cover, or the old Methodist Hymnal – now we generally never lift our Hymnal out of the pew rack as the words are on the screen. The same is true for our Bibles – some look up the scriptures on their cell phone while others look to the translation on the screen in the front of the sanctuary.

All this got me to thinking about how I respond to Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13 – “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

What is the goal that Paul is referring to in this passage? Is it a goal that we are striving toward in our own lives? Does it even apply to us today? I invite you to join us Sunday as we continue to respond to the question given to us by Jennifer Blessing last week – Responding to God’s Call.

How we respond is an important part of our response to God and whose vision are we going to follow. As we open the scriptures to define the goal that God has given to our response, we want to also look at the source of our vision for fulfilling that goal. See you at the Father’s house Sunday. 

July 7, 2017

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-22 NIV

When I was in the middle of third grade, my dad changed jobs. We were living in Pennsylvania and his job was now in New York. My parents wanted us to finish out the school year in Pennsylvania. For about six months, my dad would work in New York during the week and drive home to Pennsylvania for the weekends. It was a challenge but we all got through it. Dad would call home a lot to talk with us and keep up with all of us.

One day, I got to the phone first. When I answered I heard a male voice say, “Jennifer! Hello!” I immediately responded with, “Daddy! I miss you. How are you?” And I began to chatter away about things I wanted to share with my dad. After about a minute, I stopped to catch my breath and listened to the other person say, “Jennifer, um, this isn’t your dad. This is your Uncle Bob.” I was mortified that I had confused my dad with his younger brother. I was so eager to talk to my dad that I plunged headlong into a conversation without even listening to who was speaking to me. I remember passing the phone off to my mom and running upstairs in horror at my mistake.

Years later, I still remember the embarrassment of not checking who I was talking to. My 8-year-old self thought this was the most horrible thing I could do - to answer a call and guess the caller incorrectly. If only we had caller ID back in the 1970s!

As much as I was embarrassed at the time, I realize now that younger me was much more brave. I was willing to jump right into a conversation without the hesitancy that creeps in with maturity and adulthood.

When we are called, how eagerly do we answer? Do we respond with a willing heart? Or do we tiptoe around the call? Maybe we make excuses that we are not ready or that it’s not the right time to talk. Perhaps we know the reason we are being called, but we just don’t want to respond. Maybe we want to say no, but we realize that that’s not the right answer, so we avoid the call at all costs.

Not responding when we are called doesn’t always work so well. Consider Jonah. In the second verse of the first chapter of Jonah, God tells Jonah to “get up and go.” And in the third verse it says, “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.” Wow. Jonah didn’t even answer God but just ran away. It’s almost like a young child putting his fingers in his ears and saying “I’m not listening!” when mom or dad say to clean up or go to bed.

Jonah’s reluctance doesn’t come without cost. Sitting in the belly of a big fish is probably a timeout technique no one ever wants to endure. But he learns that God’s call is not a mere suggestion. When God calls us, there is a power to action that inspires us. Even if we are filled with trembling at the call, God’s call is designed for who we are. He knows us and our talents and our capabilities. He knows that a “yes” response is well within us and He makes us brave enough to respond.

This Sunday, we will explore how we respond to God’s call. Are you a Jonah, running as far as you can from God? Or are you like James and John, throwing down your nets and going immediately? Or maybe you are not even clear if it is God who is calling to you. May our time of worship be filled with hope and bravery as we talk about truly hearing God whether He whispers our names or He shouts it from the mountain tops.

See you in church!

Jenn Blessing

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3315 S. Bryan Rd. | Brandon, FL 33511 | 813.689.6849

Sunday Worship: 8:15, 9:45, 11:15 a.m.