THANK YOU EVERYONE for an amazing Fall Festival!
…..there is more good news to report, come Sunday to hear.
Free OVERFLOW Concert in the MAC this Wed begins at 6 pm
…..Nursery will be here. Youth will be here with various fundraisers.
Trustees roadway resurfacing project proceeding well. The church is not
…..shut down - just enter and exit through the second entrance. Resurfacing
… done now - but they will be back Wed to paint new stripes.
Thank you Table of Grace for feeding our hungry community today.
We are going to take a team to South Georgia for Hurricane Response –
…..respond to this if you wish to know more.
There is no Wednesday night dinner or programs - Fall Break week.
OASIS begins again this Thursday.
Relay for Life Fashion show fundraiser in Civic Center this Saturday
…..from 5-7 pm - see Glenda for tickets ($10)
Bud Akins had one lymph node show positive for cancer - many more
…..tests scheduled in days ahead to determine path forward.
Below is Sunday’s sermon in full for all who were unable to come Sunday.
God’s Peace,
pastor mark

1st Peter 2:4-9 NRSV
4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner,”
“A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Sermon Introduction:

I thank you all for coming to Church today.

Some of you may be here from Florida – seeking Sanctuary after hurricane Michael. Welcome! We open our arms to you. And we consider it a privilege to simply hold you for a little while in the midst of the storms of life while you catch your breath.

Some of you have spent all week at church serving faithfully through our Fall Festival. I want you to know that your amazing service this week and in the many, many weeks leading up to this weekend are recognized & truly appreciated.

I know the dollars raised at the Fall Festival is truly an amazing number – but there is a number much more amazing to God. It would be the number we would end up at if we somehow could tally up all the hours that went into making things, baking things, bringing things, sorting things, setting up things, planning things, preparing things – thank you all! And after all that, here you are – plum tuckered out – and yet present to glorify God in worship. We are honored by your presence today.

Some of you just began Union County Fall break, and you believe it was important to start this week off by putting God first in your life on your “week off.” May God bless you and your family through that powerful witness. We are honored by your presence today.

And some of you are actually here because you know this is week two of our three week annual stewardship journey – and you know just how important it is to periodically have an honest conversation with ourselves about what is most important in our life. Our faith is all about our priorities. What do we treasure most with our adoration, our time, our life? It is a daily question we need to ask ourselves.

After all, life is basically a daily opportunity to show God how we answer that question – and I thank you for choosing to be here as part of your answer today. It speaks volumes about who you are and “whose” you are… As Peter says, “we are God’s own people.”

Would you pray with me? (Sermon Prayer)

Sermon Body:

On Wednesday night, as the very outer edges of Hurricane Michael touched our mountain community here in Blairsville, we lost power at the parsonage. I was actually asleep – but something woke me in the middle of the night. Do you know what it was? It wasn’t the rain, it wasn’t the wind - of all things, in the middle of the night - it was the “lack of light.” The little light on my night stand clock had gone out when the power went out. The disturbance woke me up.

Embarrassing really - how something so tiny - can become so disturbing. It rustled me right out of bed. I got up and wandered into the living room to look out the windows at downtown Blairsville. Thankfully, what I saw there was very comforting to me. Can you guess what it was? THE LIGHTS! The power was still there. As long as there was light there, I knew everything was going to be ok. I knew the Power in my community was still on. The same is true (in a much more profound way) in this church.

All of us here today are part of God’s chosen group of people – we are the royal priesthood – a holy people – set apart from – but still located in - a broken & hurting world. So set apart how? Think about it. After all, we cry like everyone else. We bleed like everyone else. We get scared in the dark liked everyone else. We even grow old like everyone else. So what’s so “set apart” about us? (L. Pause) I think the answer lies in the LIGHT.

As Peter says, we have been called out of the darkness to live in God’s Marvelous LIGHT. (L. Pause) What does it mean to you to live in God’s marvelous light? To me, it means that we are a very strange people by the world’s standards – put simply – we are the odd ducks in the world because when everyone else hunkers down, we soar on Eagles wings. That’s what sets us apart.

We’re the people who see the devastation of a hundred year storm and say, “ok, how can we help our neighbor in need this week?” We’re the people who spend our lives working hard to earn a living while simultaneously giving a significant portion of that living to God’s work in the world….usually helping people we will never know. We’re the people who know the true source of the POWER that keeps the lights on in our spiritual homes through any storm this world might send our way. We’re the people who look at our world and see a new reality to come…rather than just see the world as it is and stay stuck there in one place perpetuating the brokenness. We see the world as it will become in a time when everything moves according to the will of God. That is the new reality to come. But that new reality requires us to be visionary people. (L. Pause)

Yes, we see clearly the pain and injustice of our world but we also see the potential for great good. And it’s that “drive towards the good” that causes us to shine even in the dark. As God’s own people, we are the reflected light of Christ in the world. Just think how bright it gets when we all bring our shared light together glorifying God? God’s Sanctuary looks like this (show the picture of the choir robed and all wearing sunglasses in the choir loft from last week when we turned the 36 new sanctuary lights on full blast.)

We can accomplish anything we wish to accomplish - if only we set our shared Light upon it. That’s where the Power is – it’s in our sharing of the Light.

In today’s part of our Stewardship Journey, I want to paint a picture of a new reality for you that rose up out of a 12 month conversation among your Church leadership. But to get there, I have to tell you a story.

Twelve months ago, I invited your 40 member Church Council (the ultimate decision body in our local church) to dare to dream a God sized dream. The question was simple: What is the next big thing we can do with God’s help to grow the Kingdom of God through this part of the Body of Christ called FUMC of Union County?

I asked your leadership to pray about that and come back with specific ideas – ideas we would write up on large sheets of paper and hang on the walls of our meeting room for God and everyone to see. After all our ideas where on the walls of the room, each Council member was given three green sticky dots about the size of a penny. I invited everyone to get up from their chairs and move - wander around the room. They were invited to place their sticky dots next to the item they thought was most important. This will forever be known in this church as the “dot, dot, dot” exercise!

You could place all three of your dots on one idea or you could spread your dots around the room. It was kind of fun watching 40 people stumbling over each other wandering around the room, carefully discerning exactly where to place their three green dots.

Once all the dots had been placed, we stood back and looked at where the most green dots landed – knowing (of course) that green means “go.”

The number one item was – increased staffing.

That generic concept was forwarded to your Staff / Parish Relations Committee (that’s the group of people responsible for the Staff team) for them to put flesh on that skeleton with some details to breathe the concept to life. The result of those conversations was recognizing that you need more pastoral care than you’re currently getting.

Now let me speak personally to you - the church I love for just a moment.
(This is why I really chose not to wear a clergy robe today.)

I know Sunday is never about me – but this one is a little bit. The truth is that I have not been every place your pastor should be. But I need you to hear something church. In this growing church, it has become IMPOSSIBLE for me to be every place I should be.

It’s wearing me down - I am now being consumed here. (L. Pause) I have had my heart to heart talk with our SPR and made clear I can no longer continue in the way I have been going without adversely impacting my family and my health further. I need – “we need” - your help – now (here in my 6th year) – to change the narrative of this church!

There just never is enough hours or enough days for me to do what needs to be done. And frankly, you should be able to expect a better level of pastoral care than I have been able to give you. There is a front door / back door concept to church life that I think applies to us right now. The front door is how well we bring new people into the life of the church. And while we can always improve, I think we do that pretty well. The problem is the back door. We have too many people leaving out the back door of the church because they do not get the attention they need from our church. We need to shut that back door.

Some will say, but what about Stan? Well, have you tried to follow Stan during a “normal Stan day?” I’ve got news for you - there is no such thing as a “normal Stan day either!” And honestly, I would like more of Stan’s time to be available to help us program out the MAC. Rather than focus on what WE OWE on the MAC – I want us to focus on how WE CAN GROW through the use of the MAC. I know you do too but think about this for a minute.

We say we want to be a multi-generational church and then we lock the doors on the greatest facility gift God has given us called the Methodist Activity Center - at 5 pm - and most everyone goes home. Well guess what? That’s precisely the time that generation we want to reach gets off work. And what do we do? We shut the lights off and lock the doors! I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but even I know that’s a very poor outreach strategy.

My prayer is that we walk into a new reality. Here’s an idea - let’s keep the lights on and see what happens? Of course, to do that right will require more of Stan’s time to coordinate even more volunteers to properly staff this facility on the off hours. It can be done! It is possible! It can be our new reality “IF” we think reaching the generation to come is part of our shared task as a royal priesthood – a holy nation – the spiritual household of God.

And I believe (and your SPR concurs) the key to making all this work is getting an associate pastor – an ordained Elder of the United Methodist Church to multiply the pastoral ministry of this church to help address the pastoral care needs of this church. There are other staffing needs - but this one is most critical right now.

That is the vision your leadership is casting for 2019.

It would be a new reality for us. It can happen. But to make it happen, will require a wonderful sharing of the marvelous light we’ve all been given. But therein is the good news of today for this Church.

We are a growing church! Somebody shout Woo! Hoo!
We are a light on a hill! Somebody Shout Woo! Hoo!
We can move forward into a new reality if only we see The POWER that is still present here. I know that POWER is still here because I can see the Lights shining bright. I saw them clearly all week long – and I saw them shining BRIGHTLY during these last 2 days so I know the POWER of God All Mighty is still on!

I just pray we strive to keep the Lights on…
I just pray we multiply our staff team…
I just pray a new reality – a new story – appears in the midst of our shared LIGHT.

So I ask you, I encourage you, I invite you…to bring the LIGHT – next week - on response Sunday, 10-21. Bring your completed 2019 Estimate of Giving cards with joy and help us write a new story together – help us create a new reality by bringing “YOUR LIGHT TO HIS TABLE” …and let it be a MARVELOUS LIGHT. Amen.

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