I have shared the following quote from the late Albert Schweitzer with you before, but, it is so very appropriate for this time in our church year, I want to share it with you once again. At the end of his book, “The Quest For The Historical Jesus” he wrote the following:
“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: ‘Follow thou me!’ and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”
There are a variety of ways provided for us to respond to those powerful and meaningful words of Jesus. Yet, it is good for us to be reminded that we do so in very real terms when we worship, pray, serve, witness and give of our means at and through First-Centenary. May we all be in prayerful preparation to respond on November 19 and beyond to Jesus’ call to us to follow him by way of our FOLLOW ME commitments.
We are blessed and we continue through Christ and this great church to bless others because of your marvelous generosity. Thanks be to God!
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Thursday, November 16, 2017 @ 3:49 PM EDT
One morning, a parishioner of mine in Statesville, North Carolina relayed to me that she had stopped by the local Hardees for a sausage biscuit. She went by the drive-thru window and struck up a conversation with the person handing her the biscuit. The conversation basically centered around the fact that the parishioner was on her way to church. The drive-thru attendant said that she would like to go to church but that she could not give any money. The parishioner told her that she did not have to give and should come to church anyway.
At first glance, that seems like a neat thing to say to anyone who might use such a reason for not attending church. At second glance, I beg to differ. There are times when some folk may believe that they cannot contribute of their means, but, that is incorrect. I believe everybody can give something. I also believe that everybody ought to give something. The act of giving is an expression of thanksgiving to and trust in God. And, we are blessed more than we could ever expect through the act of giving. It is not the amount, although our standard is 10% or giving at a proportionate rate in line with how much we believe God has blessed us and how much God will bless this church and the community because of our giving.
Nevertheless, back to my point, everybody can give something. If unable to tithe, then begin with 1% and grow from there. If 1% is not doable at this point, then give any amount. This act will only bless you, the church and the community, even the world.
Certainly, this is something between God and ourselves. However, let it not be lost on us how important, meaningful and enriching living out this very important spiritual discipline is. I am not saying that people should not come to church because they cannot give. Yet, I am saying that people can give whatever they have to give and be blessed. At Mustard Tree/Breakthrough Worship each Sunday evening, offering plates are passed to all in attendance. When the plates are received from the homeless, street persons, and others something is always in the plate. In the end, our giving is an expression of the quality of our obedience, hope and trust in God in Christ.
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 @ 3:21 PM EDT
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