Pastor’s BLOG

God Loves You First

One of the people that has nourished my soul over the years is Henri Nouwen. He was a Catholic Priest who authored more than 39 books on the spiritual life. I subscribe to an email list that delivers devotionals based on his writings to my inbox once a week.
 
This past week’s installment touched my heart. His words about how hard it is to trust that God loves him first irregardless of what he does or accomplishes is something that each one of us experiences. We live in a world that places value on accomplishment, success, and hard work. Each of these things can bring good things to our lives. However, when we allow them to filter into our life with God, we begin to believe that we have to earn God’s love.
 
Nouwen writes, “Do I really believe that I am loved first, independent of what I do or what I accomplish? This is an important question, because, as long as I think that what I most need I have to earn, deserve, and collect by hard work, I will never get what I most need and desire, which is a love that cannot be earned, but that is freely given” (Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent, email, Henri Nouwen Society).
 
We need unconditional love and any attempt to “get” this kind of love prevents us from receiving it. Nouwen says that the only thing for us to do is to renounce the thoughts that we have to do something and become willing to receive what God freely offers.
 
I know that it is hard to let go of the thoughts that we have to do something to earn God’s love, especially when we talk a lot about practicing the disciplines of the faith. We need to remember that the disciplines of prayer, study, and worship, are not about earning God’s love but rather they place us into the attitude of receptivity for the love of God already given.
 
This Lent, may you truly come to believe that you are loved and precious in God’s sight simply because you belong to God.
 
Grace and peace to you.
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee


The Quiet Life

Lent is a season that invites us to reflect on our walk with God and to consider how we might take an active step forward in the practice of our faith. Of course this is challenging in the high velocity world in which we live. So many things are pulling at us from so many directions. Work responsibilities, family responsibilities, community responsibilities and others all demand our attention, and it is often overwhelming.
In the midst of all of this, what often gets pushed out of our hectic lives are the practices of our faith; and the idea of adding something during Lent seems impractical. However, one practice that you can add will create some life-giving breathing space that will actually draw you closer to God and help you be more efficient in living your life in our fast paced world.
 
The psalmist writes from the voice of God: “Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10. There is much wisdom is this short simple verse. So much distracts us in our noisy world, that the only way to allow God’s word into our lives is to carve out just a little time to be quiet before God. It is so simple: Be Still, focus on God, and God will make himself known. Yet this simple act can seem impossible at first. However, if we are disciplined enough, each of us could find 5 or 10 minutes to shut the door, turn off the phone, and be quiet before the Lord. This practice of quiet meditation will allow us to hear God and to focus on the source of our strength.
 
C.S. Lewis said it well: “It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.” (Mere Christianity).
 
This Lent, I am adding at least 5 minutes of completely uninterrupted quiet meditation before the Lord. As the weeks progress, I am working to increase the time so that I can let the “stronger, quieter life come flowing in.” I encourage you to do the same.
 
May each of you have a holy Lent.
 
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee
 


Lent 2019

Next week we begin the season in the church known as Lent. Lent marks the 40 days that precede Holy Week and Easter. In the Bible, the number 40 relates to: the days of rain during the great flood experienced by Noah and his family; the number of years spent by Israel seeking the Promised Land after the Exodus; and the number of days Jesus was in the Wilderness after his baptism and prior to beginning his ministry.
For us, the Season of Lent is an invitation to 40 days of renewal (“Lent” means “spring”) when we prepare ourselves to take in the Good News of Easter through deeper disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
 
We will begin our Lenten observance with our Ash Wednesday service on March 6, 2019 at 7 p.m. This service sets the tone of reflection and repentance that usually characterizes this season. During this service we will receive the imposition of ashes as a sign of our penitence.
 
The Greater Lexington Area Minister’s Association (GLAMA) will once again sponsor a 30 minute noontime worship service on six Wednesdays during Lent. Each week, pastors from different denominations will take turns leading the service. Following the service, there is a light lunch served for just $5. First United Methodist Church hosts the service and provides the meal. This service and lunch is a wonderful time to worship and fellowship with other Christians from the greater Lexington area.
 
Youth Sunday will fall during lent on Sunday, March 17th. We will have just one service at 11 a.m. so that our entire church can be blessed by the youth. Following the service, our Young Disciple Middle School Youth Group will provide a salad and potato bar lunch for the congregation.
 
Saturday, April 13th will provide us the opportunity to put our faith into action as we join with other churches in Touching Davidson County With Love through our day of service.
We encourage everyone to make plans to participate as we serve our community in the name of Jesus. More information about this day will be forthcoming.
 
On Palm Sunday, April 14th, GLAMA will sponsor the Palm Sunday Parade to the square with a brief service with participants from many of the downtown and area churches. The service begins at 12:15. This annual event is a much looked forward tradition in Lexington. We will have our annual Easter Egg hunt that afternoon.
 
On Thursday, April 18th, our brothers and sisters at First United Methodist Church will join us at 7 p.m. for a joint Maundy Thursday Service. We will be hosting the service this year with an anthem by our combined choirs. Dr. Weisner from FUMC will be preaching.
 
The big day of celebration will be Easter Sunday, April 21st, and we will just one service as we celebrate Easter together.
 
As you can see, the Lenten / Easter season is full of meaningful opportunities for developing one’s faith. I encourage you to participate as you are able. It is a blessing to be in such a vibrant faith community!
 
Grace and peace to you,
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee


Love is from God

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” 1 Jn 4:7.
 
This week we once again observe St. Valentines Day. Its roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. Around 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day. So while we can joke that Valentines Day was created by the greeting card industry, it really does predate our contemporary observance by more than 1000 years.
 
As the song goes, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing,” and it truly is – whether that love is between a husband and wife, a parent and a child, siblings, or friends. Yet, what is even more splendorous is the love that God has for us. In the first letter of John we read, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 Jn 4:9–10.
God so loved us that he sent his only son to this world so that we might be reconciled to God through Jesus. We have been pursued by a loving God who provided a way for us to be forgiven, so that we might enjoy eternal fellowship with God. Truly, God is love!
 
John further elaborates that “since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another” 1 John 4:11. Our love for others grows out of God’s love for us. It is not based on how we feel about other people; instead, it is grounded on the action of God in history in the person of Jesus. We love because God loves.
 
Now, just as God’s love is about action, so ours needs to be as well. John exhorted his readers, “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” 1 Jn 3:18. As you approach Valentines Day this week, I encourage you to express your love with concrete action. Flowers, candies, and cards are great, but remember that love enfleshed by action is the model God gave us. Use your imaginations and actively share your love. I would also challenge you not to limit your loving action to just someone in your normal circle. Look for someone who may seem unlovable, and share the active, sacrificial love of Jesus with them.
 
I wish all of you the full blessings of our loving heavenly Father who loved us so much that he gave us Jesus!
 
Grace and peace to you.
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee