The late Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes stated the following in a sermon entitled Friendships and Relationships which was based on Ecclesiastes 6: 16-17 “A faithful friend is an elixir of life, found only by those who fear the Lord. The man who fears the Lord keeps his friendships in repair, for he treats
his neighbors as himself.”
“Most of us spend most of our time sorting out our personal lives, our little trials, sagas, victories, and defeats. At the end of the day we tote up our score, not for or against the great social or intellectual systems of the world, but in terms of how we stand with the people we value, and perhaps even love. It is easy for religion to pronounce upon the great affairs and events of our time; it can and must do so, but a heavenly religion that cannot help us sort out our daily dose of human experience is of no earthly good.
“The first gift given to us at creation is the gift of companionship: ‘It is not good that man should be alone,’ says God before he provides Adam with Eve. The motivation is charitable. He does not say that it is not practical or convenient for man to be alone. He says, simply, that it is not good, and he proceeds to remedy the matter and provide for the first relationship, the essence of which is companionship each for the other.
“Adam’s need is our need: perhaps we inherited it from him. ‘We need to find ourselves somehow connected to someone other than ourselves.”
Just thinking, it might help our world if more of us went about trying to “find ourselves somehow connected to someone other than ourselves” and someone different than ourselves?
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 8:49 AM EDT
“If My people, who belong to Me humbly pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14
As Solomon seeks to continue his father King David’s legacy of faithfulness, God expects three things of the faithful: to humbly pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways.
Dear friends, I am asking you to pray for our United Methodist Church that we will truly seek God’s face and wisdom. During the week of September 24-30, 2017 let us unite our voices humbly asking God to bless and empower our Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and praying for God’s guidance for the Council of Bishops and the Commission on the Way Forward. This 32-member Commission has been working for two years to clarify the Church’s understanding of human sexuality and how God is calling us to be in ministry with all people. The General Conference will meet in St. Louis, Missouri on February 23-26, 2019 to make decisions based on the findings of the Commission.
Every congregation in Holston is asked to participate in “Praying Our Way Forward” beginning in worship on September 24 and continuing throughout the week as we share in this 75-week prayer initiative from the Council of Bishops.
The United Methodist Church is a global church of almost 13 million persons. Within that large population are many varied understandings of how we might live together in light of our common commitments and our potentially divisive differences.
In addition to offering prayer for The United Methodist Church during worship on Sunday, September 24, Holston’s congregations are asked to participate in prayer for the remainder of the week of September 24-30. Each day, two districts will be specifically committed in prayer:
Monday – Abingdon and Big Stone Gap Districts
Tuesday – Chattanooga and Cleveland Districts
Wednesday – Johnson City and Kingsport Districts
Thursday – Knoxville and Maryville Districts
Friday – Morristown and Oak Ridge Districts
Saturday – Tazewell and Wytheville Districts
A prayer for the Church will be provided for devotional use each day of the week. These prayers will be written by lay and clergy members from our conference churches and will be available at holston.org/prayforward and on Holston’s social media sites.
During this week prayers will be emailed daily to numerous church leaders and available through district offices. Every congregation is encouraged to use these resources to unite us in prayer for The United Methodist Church.
The “Praying Our Way Forward” initiative was launched New Year’s Day 2017 in the North Carolina Conference and will conclude in the West Angola Episcopal area in June 2018.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Dindy Taylor
Published on Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 12:19 PM EDT
When evil strikes and we see symbols of prosperity torn asunder, we still hold on to it. When hurricanes race across our land and destroy property and lives, we still hold on to it. When leaders across the world talk about the use of nuclear weapons as if they are toys in the hands of children, we still hold on to it. When our faith in life, people, systems, institutions is shaken by the fact that human beings have always been and still are capable of making wrong decisions at times, we still hold on to it. Indeed, no matter what nefarious plot raises its ugly head among us, we still hold on to it. Yes, we still hold on to hope.
Someone has written the following: “The hope which beats within the breast of human beings has ever pictured a great and good end to the long process of history.” Nowhere is that more true than in the Judeo-Christian understanding of history. If we read the Bible carefully we come to understand that ultimately good triumphs over evil and life triumphs over death. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is like an exclamation point for that understanding of history.
To reinforce that thought I share with you the following words from James Russell Lowell:
“Ah, there is something here
Unfathomed by the cynic’s sneer,
Something that gives our feeble Light
A high immunity from Night.
A conscience more divine than we,
A gladness fed with secret tears,
A vexing, forward-reaching sense
Of some more noble permanence;
A light across the sea,
Which haunts the soul and will not let it be,
Still beaconing from the heights of undegenerate years.”
So, we like the phoenix rising out of the ashes, rebuild that which has been destroyed, rise up when we have been knocked down, believe that new days do come and that better times are ahead. And, as followers of Jesus, we have even more support for such hope.
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Friday, September 22, 2017 @ 11:45 AM EDT
In the August 30 edition of The Christian Century, the following poem by Charles Hughes appeared:
The Widowed Professor’s New Purpose
His lectures that he likes best
Usually concern Camus.
Each year, he does La Peste,
Which wasn’t always true.
“A parable to be read
By a word itself absurd:
First rats, then people, dead…
The cause is never cured…
“Despair comes in, even seems
To push the envelope
Hard. But the book’s deep themes
Are human love and hope
And how these things endure
Amid death’s ravages –
He’s growing sure
It matters what he says.
Hughes is referencing Camu’s major work, The Plague. The Plague, you may recall is about a town that is ravaged with the bubonic plague. The plague enters the town mysteriously and leaves just as mysteriously. The book shows how human beings rise to the occasion with love and compassion. When things are really bad it seems that human beings are capable of expressing the kind of love and compassion that really needs to be practiced each and every day. Amazing is it not, that in Houston no one wanted to know if one was a certain color, ethnic origin, religious persuasion, gay or straight, rich or poor, right or wrong, left or right. No, none of that at all.
Interesting to me, the Nazarene who died on an ugly hill upon a cross never asked such questions either. I find myself, once again wondering, why does it, all too often, take tragedy to bring out the best that is in humanity?
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 @ 9:10 AM EDT
One of my favorite people ever is the late Jane Merchant. She spent most of her life in bed suffering from illness. Yet she wrote some of the most beautiful and meaningful poetry followed by a prayer in her devotional book, In Green Pastures, ever written. The following prayer from that great work is most appropriate for August 2017. This month has reminded us in so many ways that there is still much evil and darkness with which we must defeat through God’s presence and love. Her prayer following the poem FOR ALL THE GLORY reminds us that there is light born even out of darkness.
WE THANK THEE, HEAVENLY FATHER, for light that rises in the darkness, and for the darkness that makes us realize how lovely is the light. Thou knowest our hearts, O God: thou knowest we would not choose the darkness or the storm; we would not choose the valley of the shadow; we would avoid all sorrow if we could. We thank thee, Lord, that out of the experiences from which we shrink, we learn the glory of light, the comfort of thy presence, and the sufficiency of thy consolations. We thank thee in Christ’s name. AMEN
Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a white supremacist and neo nazi in Charlottesville, Virginia like so many innumerable others murdered by KKK and other people filled with hate, will forever be such a light shining above and beyond the wretched darkness embodied in those hate groups. Indeed, the light of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ still shines above and beyond such absolute evil and idiocy.
Thank God for the light of Christ.
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 @ 10:39 AM EDT