Archive for July, 2011

29
Jul
11

a new day at Heritage!

What an auspicious and just plain awesome day this is in the life of Heritage United Methodist Church! It has felt like there is something worth celebrating every week of the four weeks I have been here, but this one is really the cherry on top of the sundae! Thursday at around 2:30 in the afternoon the final “I’s” were dotted and “t’s” were crossed to finalize the sale of 27.5 acres of land that the church has owned and has been trying to sell for a LONG time. The finalization of this process owes a lot to the persistence and tireless dedication of Jim Atwood in particular, but I want to thank and praise our treasurer Ken Clark, our chair of Finance Doug Van Dyke, the people who have served on the church council and both of my predecessor pastors, Rev. Tom Brady and Rev. Jeannie Jensen for everything that they did to help bring about today’s amazing developments.

One of my first questions on getting to Heritage and hearing about this protracted effort to sell the land was, “What if God decides it is time for Heritage to grow by adding more members and expanding our space? Will we still have enough land left to respond?” I was shown a plan that shows that even if we QUADRUPLE our current size and attendance and build a sanctuary and parking lot to suit, everything will fit comfortably within the remaining, unsold land area.

There are still many, many more discussions ahead about the implications of this sale for the church’s ministry budgets, for urgent maintenance items, and for long-postponed projects. But it is clear that we are absolutely on brand new footing as a church as we prepare to celebrate 25 years of history. Please make a note that we will have a special celebration for the whole church next Sunday (August 7) immediately following the 10:30 worship service to give thanks to God and say a very orderly, Midwest Methodist “YEEEEHHHAAAAWWWW!”

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts about what this sale means to you and to the church. Please feel free to email those to me at: russellb@heritageumc.org.

THANKS FOR YOUR THOUGHTS!

Last week at the end of the sermon time I asked people to write down on a sheet of paper their answer to the question: “The reason I have decided to make Heritage UMC my church home is…” We got a stack of responses a couple of inches thick! I sat down with those the other day to get a sense of the kind of things people were saying and two themes kept coming up over and over again: the music and the PEOPLE! I have already experienced the truth of both of those, even in the short time of my tenure. It really does go a long way toward demonstrating what the real heart of the church is. Let’s be honest… you really do need a talented leader like Becky Waters to have a truly top-notch music program. But the fact that so many people talked about the grace, the friendliness, the warm, caring acts of kindness they have received from other Heritage members really underscores the truth of the old saying that the church is what is left over after the building burns down and the pastor leaves town. YOU are reason someone chose Heritage over all other alternatives. YOU make this church what it is and what it WILL BE in the future.

HOW DOES GOD SPEAK?

Have you ever wondered how God communicates with all these people who say they heard from God? I imagine God (being God, after all) is able to use an unlimited number of channels to communicate with us. The trick is whether or not we are ready to listen. Come this weekend for the beginning of a new sermon series, “Unexpected Lessons from Unexpected Places” and be ready to hear God speak directly to YOU.

God’s abundant blessings to you and yours today. Try to stay out of the horrible heat!

 

22
Jul
11

Tricky business

Without a doubt the first order of business today is to pause and offer a prayer for those who are struggling the most with this oppressive heat. I am sure most people reading this today have ready access to an air-conditioned environment (as I do) and are not required by your line of work to be outside in the sun (as I am not). There are many people in our area, and probably some right near our church, for whom these are not true. Would you please pause right now and lift them up in prayer with me?

Thank you.

Here is one of the other things that is on my mind today: Have you looked around recently and noticed the sheer number of high level and yet totally stalemated negotiations that are going on right now? Over there in Washington, D.C. we have the President and the Republicans and the Democrats negotiating for a new debt ceiling so that the government can pay its bills after August 3. In New York we have the Battle of the Millionaires vs. the Billionaires trying to work out a new collective bargaining agreement that will allow the National Football League to keep playing, and then finally the same thing going on with the owners and players for the NBA. As I watch the news reports of these “discussions” I imagine a long, polished wooden table with rows of scowling people on each side and glasses of water and yellow legal pads scattered everywhere. If it were a different era there likely also be clouds of cigar smoke in the air.

As we hear the reports on the progress (or lack thereof) of these negotiations, the public statements made by each side seem to focus on attacking the integrity of the other… pointing out how badly “we” are being treated and how bleak and grim the outlook is for a positive outcome.

Is there an easier or better way to do this? Do negotiations always have to be so incredibly adversarial? It is of course hopelessly naïve to think that people will just sit down, sing a chorus of “Kum By Ah” and effortlessly work out an agreement on these kinds of things. Still, I can’t help wishing that there might be even the tiniest recognition of the fact that the people on the other side of the table are human beings, children of God, created in God’s image, imbued with worth and dignity and deserving of grace and respect.

But then I am forced to look in the mirror and ask myself how often I really approach another person from that kind of godly perspective and I am embarrassed to admit how often I fail… even when we are NOT talking about contracts worth millions of dollars.

This morning’s devotional reading (from the book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) sent me to Ephesians 5:8-11 which reminds us all, “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

Let us each “live as children of light” today!




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