A few weeks ago we relaunched Family Promise (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network) here at First-Centenary, under the leadership of Matt and Tiffany Phillips and with the help of countless others in the congregation. If you served in any way, from bringing food to setting up or tearing down to staying with the families over night, thank you so much for making a difference in ending homelessness for families with children.
It was neat to see the number of families who volunteered early in the week but continued to come back because their children built relationships with the children in the program. I heard stories from parents of kids crying because they didn’t want to go home. They wanted to stay at church!
We live in a world that is ripe with fear of the other. Because we don’t know someone, or don’t understand their life scenario or background we immediately allow walls to divide us. In my Sunday School class we are doing a book study that addresses fear, entitled Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times. The author, Rev. Adam Hamilton, reminds us “The failure to get to know our neighbors, and the shirking of our responsibility to love them, means that we will continue to live with fear. But love perfected by actions has the power to drive out fear.”
Loving others is one of the simplest yet most difficult actions that human beings have to choose – but the good news is that the gift of love has been perfectly modeled for us in and through Jesus Christ. My prayer for each of us this week is that our love would be perfected by action and be a source of hope and light in this world.
In Christ, Will
Published on Thursday, August 22, 2019 @ 3:21 PM EDT
Recently First-Centenary, The Scenic City Women’s Network, and the Chattanooga Institute for Faith and Work hosted a video broadcast of a live event from Dallas, Texas called, “Work As Worship.” Those are three words we do not often hear in that order. Our context of the word “work” should be both that which is financially paid as well as unpaid. Most people reading this will spend (or have spent) half of their lives engaged in work.
For some, work is something that has to be done to pay for the things they need and beyond that, the things they want. For many, work is self-satisfying, self-fulfilling and for the most part enjoyable. But work as worship?
When we accepted Jesus Christ as our savior, we began a lifetime journey to serve as a whole life disciple. We are called to serve Christ through all of our roles in life, especially the one where we spend most of our waking hours. God gave each of us talent and passion to be used in work. Your work matters to God because the people with whom you work with matter to God.
When we do our work with excellence, integrity and diligence we are living out, avodah...the Hebrew word that, depending on its use, means service, or work, or worship. For us the world is not divided into compartments of sacred and secular. Regardless, if we love our work or just tolerate it, the focus is not on ourselves but on serving and glorifying God. The Vine and Nave are not the only places where we worship. God created us to work and to worship – for us as resurrection people.
Published on Thursday, August 8, 2019 @ 2:52 PM EDT
I was sitting on my back porch the other morning and I saw something that truly amazed and surprised me. I need to set the stage for you - our home backs up to the woods and there’s a small creek bed that runs along our property. You have to cross the creek bed to get to the woods.
Now back to the story.
I was sitting on the porch I noticed something rather large leap across the creek bed from the woods, grab a squirrel and retreat back into the woods. I was trying to figure out what I had just seen and through a process of elimination figured out it was not a house cat, rabid raccoon, small dog, grey fox nor an opossum on steroids. It was a Bobcat! (No, not the one stolen from Reflection Riding.) It was my own bobcat and it was only 30 feet away when it attacked. I went in to tell Judy and her response was; “Yeah right.” I told a neighbor, “I saw a Bobcat!” I think they imagined I had been on some medication. I called the TWRA and told them I saw a bobcat! There was silence on the other end of the phone and then the response was “Well, do not get close to it.”
(I was not planning on it.)
Often we see some strange things in this world. Often things so strange people find it hard to believe.
Then I thought of some of the strange things Jesus did. Many people found it hard to believe. It was strange to see the blind healed, the lame walking, the deaf able to hear and the dead raised to life. It was strange to see Jesus talking to women in public, hanging around tax collectors and welcoming children. It was strange to see Jesus at the transfiguration, resurrection, and ascension. There is the holy mysterious side of God that is still hard to understand and comprehend.
I thought about the disciples at Pentecost who had the Holy Spirit descend on them and they began to proclaim the glory of God in other languages. A strange sight for sure! I thought about a prominent doctor on a mission trip in Appalachia tearing out a rest room. I thought of the well-respected banker who taught first grade Sunday school class. I thought of the accountant who helped with the homeless ministry. Strange indeed to see God at work in our world! Stranger than a bobcat leaping from the woods!
Sometime this week, read Exodus 33:12-23. Moses found that GOD IS mysterious and often we can only see where God has been not where God is going. Strange indeed!
By the way, I saw the Bobcat again! Just sayin’.
Blessings on your day from the animal kingdom.
Published on Thursday, July 25, 2019 @ 3:26 PM EDT
Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples. We are really trying to take Jesus serious here at First-Centenary. We have been doing some good stuff in Romania, helped support a ministry in Honduras, we are sending a group to Costa Rica, and the youth are in that foreign land known as South Carolina (I am not completely sure if that counts as Samaria, but both start with an S).
These are great things. We also give money to Family Promise, Partnership, Prison Ministry, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Volunteers in Medicine, Room In the Inn, UTC Wesley Center, Bethlehem Center, the J. H. Henry YMCA, Henderson Settlement, and help support Harry Howe and Ray Zirkel as missionaries. And of course, we have an awesome ministry here throughout the week in our Centenary program. Not too shabby. But, I am always reminded of what businessman Oskar Schindler is credited as saying when he was looked to as a hero in saving many Jewish people’s lives in Germany during WWII – “I could have done more.”
Could have done more? Can we do more? Well, that’s up to you. First, I encourage us to continue to support the missions that we already do. Continue to support them financially and also look for ways to get more involved on a personal level. Volunteering time and talents you have could be used in these missions.
Secondly, speaking of volunteering, Matt and Tiffany Phillips are getting us back into overnight hosting with Family Promise the week of July 21-28. I bet they could use your help. Check out the ways you can get involved.
Thirdly, because everything from a preacher is supposed have 3 points, let’s consider getting involved with Habitat for Humanity again. There are ways you can do that until someone takes that ministry by the reigns again. Donate to the Restore or buy from it. Check with them and see how you can help. It is a much needed ministry in trying to provide affordable housing in today’s market.
And finally, I know I am over the preacher quota, if you know of other missions we do or we could consider getting involved in, let one of your pastors know. Or talk to the Mission Committee on how we can help you get that mission started. There are a lot of people out there that still aren’t disciples yet. Let’s keep going to as many places and reach as many people as we can.
Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Thursday, July 11, 2019 @ 3:24 PM EDT
Most of the Apostle Paul’s writings to the church of Corinth are relevant to the church of today. A passage that especially resonates, speaks of a door mentioned in I Corinthians 16:9. In this verse Paul wrote, “...for a great and effective door has opened to me and there are many adversaries.” Vividly, Paul describes the ‘door of opportunity’ with emphasis, though he acknowledges the presence of adversaries. He foresees this important challenge as one worthy enough to warrant remaining in Ephesus, despite any opposition.
Today’s Church faces a similar time in which God is challenging the people of God to courageously and boldly walk through the doors of opportunity that are opened. Just as the entrance of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, there is the “open” Door of Humility for all who choose to enter. This small, rectangular door requires all who enter, regardless of height or size, to bend down as they walk through.
On bended knee and with hearts of reverence, God is waiting to meet us in prayerful preparation for entrance through current and future doors of opportunity. Together, with the Holy Spirit, we shall have the strength, direction and wisdom to move forward. It is with this assurance of Divine Presence that we can humbly seize the opportunities ahead...May God forever remind us that ‘bending down in prayer and supplication’ prepares us to recognize and advance through doors of opportunity, despite the presence of adversaries!
Published on Thursday, June 27, 2019 @ 4:04 PM EDT