August 25, 2017

"Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!"   Ephesians 2:8

I just spent a week at a place called the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 2017 it was recognized as being one of the top five organizations for leadership development in the world. It is a humbling experience to be chosen to participate in the Reynolds Program in Church Leadership which is a collaborative work between the Western North Carolina Conference Foundation and the Center for Creative Leadership. I was there with 24 clergy colleagues from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Georgia, and four of us from Florida. It is a year long program and this was the first gathering. This whole program was the idea of a businessman name Royce Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds wanted clergy in The United Methodist Church to be the best leaders possible. For the past 19 years the program has grown to cover five conferences, has graduated almost 500 clergy, and invested almost $3.8 million in the process. It was all the idea of one man, but the impact has been far reaching.

As I was participating this week, and thinking about being back with you on Sunday, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Scripture above. Paul writes to remind the church at Ephesus that it's not their idea. They are not as clever as they were beginning to think they were. The whole salvation thing was God's idea from start to finish. It was out of God's immense love for humanity that the plan was designed. The reality is that without God's plan we are stuck dead to rights in our sin without a way out. God knew that and decided to do something about it. John 3:16 tells us the why and the how of God's plan. God loved us so much that God sent Jesus, God's one and only Son, to save us. It was all God's idea and we are not the major player, God is through Jesus Christ the Son. It was all God's idea.

The thing is ... if you have been a part of church for even a little bit you know this. So you may be asking, "Why are you talking about this again?" I am glad you asked! I will answer with a question - Do you treasure this gift that God has given you? This gift of salvation is something to be treasured. It is not something we can take credit for or brag about. It is something we should hold as a divine treasure to which nothing can compare. Yet, often times I believe we take this amazing gift of God for granted. Considering ourselves saved and that's it. It's done. That's our idea, not God's. We are to treasure God's gift of salvation to us through Jesus Christ the Son more than anything else.

Being a part of the body of Christ, the church, is the way we live out God's gift of salvation together. This week we will conclude our series I Am SAUMC with a discussion about treasuring our part in the body of Christ. We are to unify, sacrifice, pray, and treasure as members of the body of Christ. I can't wait to see you in church.

August 18, 2017

In my life before children, I was an avid gardener. My grandmother instilled in me a love of fresh cut flowers from the garden arranged in vases throughout the house, and an appreciation for the flavor of garden-fresh vegetables on the plate. I have fond memories of walking through her large gardens as a child, when the sunflowers towered over and shaded me.

Once Russell and I had our first home, I learned just how much work it was to create amazing gardens like my grandmother’s! It was hard work to break up and convert the Maryland clay to fertile soil, and it took trial and error to figure out which flower and food species to plant where for successful cultivation. And, of course, there were the bugs to keep at bay – not nearly the challenge of Florida bugs, mind you. But, by far, the trickiest part of keeping my flower and vegetable gardens healthy and productive was keeping the weeds in check. Oh, my! There are SO many kinds of weeds, they each have their season, and they never tire in their attempts to take over the rich soil for themselves.

I became adept at the best methods for removing weeds, largely based upon their root structure. For shallow-rooted weeds I could use my trowel, and only needed to turn over the top layer of soil to quickly get rid of them. For dandelions, I needed to dig down at least six inches to get a significant portion of the taproot, or these persistent buggers would simply pop up again in short order. Vines have their own trickiness, especially those with rhizomes. It took longer to track down their many roots spread throughout my garden. Sneaky, sneaky vines.

Fast forward about 15 years, and Russell and I were attacking some Virginia Creeper in our yard here in Florida. For over a year we had been snipping this vine back above ground, and it would appear that we had cleared the vine only to have it crop right back up again – within days! One day, Russell was fed up with the vine and really went to town and dug down deeper and wider throughout our front yard, eventually uncovering and removing a root structure that was over 20 feet long, and in places, as thick as my wrists! Now THAT’S rooted! So well rooted, in fact, that over a year later, despite removing so much of the root, I STILL see some sprigs of Virginia Creeper popping up in our front yard…

Can you imagine being that well rooted?

So well rooted, that someone’s “snips” at you, their careless or hurtful words, don’t impact you much? So well rooted that you can respond to others with compassion, even when they are unpleasant, because you can clearly see the hurt beneath their unpleasantness? So well rooted that difficult circumstances or disappointments don’t damage your core; can’t remove your roots? So well rooted that you know exactly who you are, in all of your strengths and frailties, so you know what makes you grow well and what “rots” you? So well rooted that you can plainly sort your selfish motivations from your altruistic ones? So incredibly rooted that you could endure a devastating loss and still have love and hope?

Imagine! If we at St. Andrew’s were all so well rooted, what could God do through us as a community?

The Apostle Paul understood the importance of rootedness to the early church. He shared wisdom on becoming rooted in a divine relationship that impacts others.

How do we become well rooted today? Join us on Sunday to learn more in our series: I Am SAUMC. I look forward to seeing you and engaging in worship together, to become ever more rooted in the marvelous love of God.

August 11, 2017

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.”    John 17:20 NIV

Have you ever met someone who liked to talk about themselves? No matter what the topic of conversation it always seems to get back around to them, their accomplishments, or some great nugget of wisdom they have for you. I am sure that everyone has known someone like this. In my experience, people who make life all about them have one thing that keeps them from experiencing the fullness of life. The one thing that gets in their way is pride. Pride will cause a person to puff themselves up to a bigger and better version of who they really are and create a false image. They present this false image as reality, sometimes because they truly believe it is real. The problem is that pride will never allow a person to be 100% true to who they are.

Philosopher, theologian, and contemplative Thomas Merton wrote, “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” It is only when we take on humility that we can truly know ourselves as God created us. Any version of ourselves that is not founded in humility is a false self. It is a version propped up by pride and self-deception. We can only see the true self through the eyes of the one true God. This is why I love the language of Genesis 1:27 that says God created humankind

“ … in the image and likeness of God …  .” We are created by God to embody the very image and likeness of the Creator. If we choose to be prideful it is a distortion of how God created us. Humility is when we present ourselves as God’s masterpiece, nothing of our own doing.

With all of this as groundwork, we see more clearly what an incredible example Jesus is for the world. Jesus had every right to be proud. He was God, the Creator of all things, nothing was created except through Him. Yet, Paul reminds us that Jesus set all of that aside and became flesh and blood. Jesus humbled himself and became obedient – even to death on a cross – because it was God, the Father’s plan. Without humility Jesus would have never sacrificed His life for you and me. Without humility Jesus would not have been concerned with the human condition of sin. It was humility that allowed Jesus to save us.

So how are we doing on humility? Are we willing to give up our rights, privileges, and preferences for others? Does pride ever get in our way and lead us to insist on our way? Can we think of a time where we were upset with the church because something didn’t go our way? I would imagine that each of us could answer affirmatively to at least one of those questions. So what are we to do? We are called to follow the example of Christ and humble ourselves for the sake of others. Sacrifice and service are the example that Jesus gives for all of us.

This Sunday we will talk more about being a part of SAUMC in our series I Am SAUMC. The message will help us think about how we can sacrifice for the sake of the call of Christ. I look forward to sharing this message with you Sunday. God is at work at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

August 4, 2017

“I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind ... ”
John 17:20 MSG

There is a story that has made the circles around the internet over the past few years. It is a story of an anthropologist who was working with some kids in Africa. One day he put a basket of fruit near the base of a tree. He told the kids that the first one to find the fruit could have all of it for his own. When he told them they could run, the kids all joined hands and ran together. Once they found the fruit they sat down together to enjoy it. The anthropologist asked them why they ran together with their hands joined instead of going on their own and potentially getting all the fruit to themselves. They kids answered: “Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?” What a great picture of unity and selflessness. The whole is more important than its parts or oneself. That’s what unity is all about.

Do you remember, or have you read about, Coach John Wooden and his championship winning basketball teams in the 1960s and 1970s? Over the span of 1964 to 1975 John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins won 10 NCAA National Championships. He was quite the college coach and he coached some pretty amazing teams. When he was asked about what made his players great he answered, “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” The unity of the team and how every player worked as a part of the whole team was more important than individual stardom. John Wooden coached players to put the success of the team first, to trust each other, and to put their faith in the team. Obviously, it worked. The focus on unity and team was very successful.

More importantly than either of the two examples above, Jesus thought that unity was critical when it came to His followers. Jesus prayed to God, the Father, that those who were following him would be of one heart and mind. Jesus wanted His followers to put the whole above the parts. When Jesus prayed this prayer He said that he was not just praying for those who were there that day. Jesus was also praying for all those who would come to believe because of their testimony. This means that Jesus was praying that the whole church would be of one heart and mind. To be even more clear – the goal Jesus set for the church was to become one heart and mind just like Jesus and God the Father. This should be our goal.

So how are we doing? Are we united? Can we say that everyone at St. Andrew’s is of one mind and heart? Can we truly say that each one of us is a unifier? If the answer to any of these is no, then we have some work to do. Of course, the answer is no to all of them from time to time. We need to remember the goal that Jesus set for us, the church. We need to work toward that goal every day. We need to do everything in our power to bring unity to the church – in Jesus’ name.

This Sunday we will talk more about being a unifier for the church. The message will help us think about how we can work together toward one heart and mind for Christ. I look forward to sharing this message with you Sunday. God is at work at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

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Pastor Tim Machtel