A Note from Your Staff Parish Relations Team:
Each year every United Methodist pastor in every United Methodist church is evaluated. Based on the feedback from the pastoral family, local church SPR, and District Superintendent, the Bishop of our Conference makes the final decision and appoints every clergy person after a discerning process driven in prayer with the Bishops Cabinet. As in the past 6 years, the SPR & Mark have both requested he be reappointed to us another year. When Mark & Shannon were sent to us we had a great need for healing in the loss of Pastor Ben and they stepped in with their gifts and graces to help us move forward, grow and encouraged us to find our place in ministry here. Look at the results we have seen in that time. We are so blessed by their work here. As I said, we requested they be reappointed to us another year. However God has a great need for Mark & Shannon’s gifts and graces in another church and this year he is being sent where he is needed. We will be welcoming our new pastor, Rev. Don Landen, his wife, Heather and their son Wesley (who will be a 6th grader in the fall) on June 23rd who will be coming to help us continue to move God’s Kingdom forward here at First United Methodist Church. Mark’s Lenten sermon series “What Should Churches Do Well” included “Hospitality that is so Rad.” This is our opportunity to put this into practice as we welcome our new pastoral family! Please be in prayer for Mark & Shannon as they walk forward in their move and also in prayer for Don & Heather as they walk forward into their move here in ministry with us. I read a quote yesterday that seemed fitting. ”God knows exactly when to send what you need…trust him!” God has a plan and God’s got this!
Children’s Ministry Director Position
As the Burgess family leaves, we will need to fill the part time Children’s Director role that Shannon will leave at the end of May. That role is responsible for the Children’s ministry (Nursery through 5th grade) on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings - along with special event coordination like VBS. Your primary responsibility will be preparing curriculum, equipping volunteers, organizing activities, and interacting with both Children and their parents. Our Nursery Director (Donna Frederick) reports to this position. If you would like to be considered for the Children’s Director role, please forward a resume to Evelyn in the Church Office. Her email is BlairsvilleFUMC Evelyn@gmail.com
Holy Week and Easter Services:
Wednesday- no supper or services
Holy Thursday - Living Lord’s Supper drama…6:30 pm…MAC
Good Friday Service…..6:30 pm…Sanctuary
Sunrise Service …..7:30 am …….up at the new outdoor stage next to the playground
Regular Services at 8:30 am, 9:45 am and 11:00 am
Pastor Mark’s Sermon Notes from Palm Sunday
(after the announcement of his appointment to another church)
Scripture Luke 19:28-40
Sermon Title “He Came to Leave”
Today is a tough message. You came for Holy week, Palm Sunday, triumphant entrance, Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest! And instead, you get a tough message. And that makes this one of the most difficult sermons I have ever delivered here at FUMC.
As I think back over our 6 years together, I was reminiscing this week over the toughest sermons I have shared here. I remember one that made everyone twitch, fidget and squirm. It was when I first came and I stood in this pulpit and said, “the Church of Jesus Christ is God’s Change Agent in the world!”
You twitched, you fidgeted, you squirmed - because that word “change” always seems to bring pain. One of the nearsighted truths all us human beings share (including me) is we just don’t like change because “our perspective” is change is always “BAD.”
I wonder what God’s perspective on change is…?
After all, God seems to use change to bring about great good…right?
Of course we would expect God’s perspective on change to be on a little grander scale than our own selfish perspective on change. But it makes me wonder - what does God see clearly about change that we have trouble seeing? There in lies the heart of today’s Palm Sunday message.
Would you pray with me? (Sermon Prayer)
Why did Jesus come? That’s a big question – let’s make it more specific.
Why did Jesus come to Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday?
There are potentially many answers to that question.
Maybe He came to simply celebrate the Passover. He had done that many times before. After all, He’s Jewish and this is Passover festival time. The Law made it clear all people of the Jewish faith were to attend the annual Passover festival in Jerusalem as often as they could. It was the GRAND celebration of God moving among them in the past – so it was Holy and set apart.
Do you suppose all the unblemished lambs in the region knew the final clock was ticking as the calendar turned to Passover month? From our side of the cross, we know the Passover Lamb named Jesus sure did.
He knew he would not be staying. He knew he came to leave. He knew it would end sooner than his faith family wanted it to end. But Jesus was not called by them – He was called by the Father. He was called to bring about change. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son…why? To bring about change!!!
Remember our story. The people had grown distant from God. The Law was supposed to help them be right with God – but all it seemed to do was create complexity – and even greater distance between God & God’s children.
A course correction was needed. But for it to work, Jesus came to give something new. I think that concept is captured in the meaning behind a colt that had “never been ridden” – it was reference to something new that was about to happen. And what was that something new? Divine redemption through forgiving, sacrificial love. (repeat)
Jesus comes, the people shout with great joy at the arrival of their Messiah. From their perspective, this was God returning to where God should rightly be – the city of God – Jerusalem – the center of their faith just like before when God moved in their past!
So they make the path for him with their cloaks, their garments, their hearts…come this way Jesus, we welcome you…let us “lead you” back to “our center” – not realizing God had come to “lead us” back to God’s center – through sacrificial love.
The only one in the crowd who knew that He Came to Leave – was the one riding the colt!
Have you ever wondered how Jesus felt during that slow ride to Jerusalem – for the last time…
I’m no Jesus, but my stomach and my heart and my brain are all twisted in knots right now. Everything about the routine of life that I know, all the people I cherish, all the relationships I have given my life these 6 years to develop are about to be taken from me. I’m hurting – Your hurting – the truth is we’re both hurting. And some of you are sitting there right now saying, “See, this is why I HATE being a Methodist – they do this to you - just when everything is going right, THEY steal OUR pastor!”
And the truth is our knee jerk reactions – yours and mine – is that this is so wrong! Our church wants our pastor back, our pastoral family asked to come back, the church is growing in a season of health and vitality. Why mess all that up now? It just doesn’t make sense. SEE! SEE! Change is BAD!
Well…it doesn’t make sense from “the perspective of our own well being”
But then God the Father sending the SON to a people who would kill Him on a cross didn’t make sense from the perspective of Jesus’ own well being either…now did it?
But it all makes PERFECT SENSE from a Divine perspective.
If we can just somehow look at our world as bigger than what we want for “just us.” That’s the key. That’s the key to today – that’s the key to life – that’s the key to eternal life.
I remember a phone call I got 6 years ago.
I was in my 7th year of serving a little church in a small community. The church had grown significantly – two worship services had become three – the church had become a multi-generational church with significant mission and ministry outside the building. We had just increased staffing, bought adjacent properties, and had begun our building plan conversation…that’s when my phone rang.
It was the Bishop’s office calling. I was told I would be moved. It was because there was a precious church that had lost their beloved pastor, they were in huge debt, and they needed help. I was told the Bishop’s cabinet prayerfully discerned that they needed the Spirit Gift’s God expressed through me – now – and I was being SENT.
And so we cried, and we packed, and we obediently moved to a church called First United Methodist Church of Union County. We trusted the Holy Spirit to guide our ministry in this new place of grace. And God did.
Look what God has done through all of you in our time of shared ministry! You are strong. You are healthy and vital. This church has grown significantly. Two services have become three. You have become a multi-generational church with significant mission and ministry that extends outside the boundaries of this church campus. We are in the process of adding incremental staffing again…
…and that’s when my phone rang.
It was the Bishop’s office calling. I was told I would be moved. It was because there was another precious church that had lost their lead pastor in November – a retired interim pastor has been wonderfully filling in until this year’s appointment cycle. And the Bishop’s cabinet has prayerfully discerned they need the Spirit’s Gifts God is expressing through me – now – and I am being SENT.
And so we cry, and we pack, and we obediently move.
When I went into the ministry, I learned that there are these “things” we give to God called Ordination vows. Because I took my call from God seriously, I also took my Ordination vows seriously. The short version of those vows is “I give my life sacrificially for God’s will.” That’s it.
To be ordained in the UMC means you give your life to God and you trust those who are empowered to discern God’s calling to send you where God desires you to be…and it’s tough to do. It’s not easy. But faith is not easy.
I’ve often wondered if there was ever a moment when that part of God we know as God the Father faced that part of God we know as God the Son to say, “I need you to do this now. I need you to take forgiving love into the creation in a way that they can see it. But it will require your painful sacrifice on a cross…”
I find great comfort knowing that the part of God we know as the Holy Spirit would have also been there in that conversation too - saying to God the Son, “your sacrifice will open their hearts for me to live in them eternally – it will change everything.” Then it dawned on me that whole conversation only makes sense when you remember the Father, Son and Spirit are ONE….our One True God.
That One True God sent me to you.
That One True God is now sending me to Peachtree City UMC.
And like Jesus before me, I know even as I arrive there, I am coming to leave. Because God’s perspective is not one group of people, not one church, not one denomination, not even one season of life. God’s perspective is the eternal Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven….can’t you “see” God methodically changing the world toward that goal? And until that day comes, God will be calling people to follow Jesus’ sacrifice to help bring about God’s Kingdom.
The same thing is happening with the Landen family right now…they are crying, they are packing, and they are obediently coming to you.
This is the ministry of the ordained itinerant Elder in the United Methodist Church.
It means we go where God sends us. We follow the apostolic ministry – that’s the churchy word for the ministry of “being sent by the Holy Spirit.”
Why should a pastor get sent to a new place?
Because the gifts and graces the Holy Spirit expresses in that person are now what God needs in that new place. Those Spirit gifts are not ours to Lord over. That movement of the Spirit is not mine – it is God’s – it is that very Spirit that is calling my use of those Spirit Gifts into a new place.
And if our perspective could just become what “all of us” need (that’s God’s Perspective) rather than just what “we need here” (our own perspective)…then we begin to see things a little clearer. It still hurts – but we can see.
And so Jesus was sent by God to town one day to do a new thing - riding on the back of a colt to the welcoming shouts of ALL the people. Well, not “all” the people.
Luke tells us, some Pharisees in the crowd (that’s the churchy people of that day) were not happy. Why? Because they knew his arrival would bring change. And we don’t like change – it makes us twitch and fidget and squirm.
But here is another truth given to us in our Scripture today. The creation itself is groaning (yearning) for change – and change is coming – even the stones know it!
And my response is BRING IT LORD - BRING IT NOW!
I long for the day when the world will become
…a kindler, gentler place with no more tears.
I long for the day when the world will become
…a peaceable kingdom without fear or angst
I long for the day when the world will become
…a place of grace where everyone’s eyes are directly on God instead of on themselves.
But somebody has got to do something to make it go…
God did God’s part – now God is asking us to do our part.
And so where He leads me I will follow – even if I have to carry a cross when I get there…
This is a pretty radical idea - isn’t it?
God knows this is what it takes to change the world!
So here is my message today – I end back at the beginning:
The church of Jesus Christ is God’s change agent in the world…
That’s THE VERY POINT of Holy week – to make all things new again!
Ok, your twitching again! I can see it.
Don’t worry. The change I’m talking about will be good.
Your task is simply to take what has happened here in this place of grace
to the rest of the world!
Lord, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…
Through us God will reach people, touch souls, change hearts, and launch disciples (that’s Church!)
A Note from Your Finance Team
………………. . …… .Received……….. .YTD Received
April 7th………….$ 36,840……………..$343,317
April 14th………..$ 21,805……………..$365,122
Thank you for your generosity Church!
Please continue to remember your Church in your legacy trusts & wills - that gift is also greatly appreciated!