Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Jesus is Alive through our Church

   Since starting as the Bishop of the South Georgia Conference as September, Lawson Bryan has kept our focus steadily on the question, "Where are we alive together in Christ?" He loves the verses from Ephesians 2, "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ..."
   It was my friend Allison Lindsey, who helps coordinate disaster response for the 650 UMC congregations in South Georgia, who referred to the amazing "ALIVE sightings" during the past month of storms. She included local churches opening as shelters, Wesleyan College opening their campus to evacuating families of their students, and our Methodist Children's Home in Macon hosting the Florida Methodist Home kids and staff.
   I've seen and heard of similar amazing "ALIVE" sightings in our own church just this week:

  • A mom and her two sons spent all day Tuesday serving local older couples, they'd never met before, in their yards
  • A family pooling their $10 talents to provide care packages for utility workers
  • Another family baking and delivering cookies and drinks to utility workers all over Houston County as they worked 
  • One woman coordinating a host of others to prepare meals to feed evacuees housed at Trinity UMC
  • People donating diapers and wipes to help flooded families in Texas
  • One family of three donating filled UMCOR cleaning buckets and then collecting money to fill more of them
  • Others opening their homes to welcome people without power

   Hear Paul's words, again, "God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ." Jesus is alive in Houston County when his church loves its neighbors! Grace and peace, Scott

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Little Chapel on the Bonaire Prairie

The Bonaire Methodist Chapel, by Marie Holly
   It was this month, in 1894, that the Bonaire Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was completing construction on the chapel built by a handful of families from the farming community. Earlier that year, the Rev. M. B. Ferrell, a preacher at the Sandy Run church, choose Bonaire as a spot to try to plant a new church because it was the next stop headed south on the Georgia Southern and Florida Railway. That February a committee was formed to consider the formal development of an ongoing, worshiping congregation, and soon afterwards Mr. W. S. King donated land. By mid-summer, he and his two sons were joined by five other men in the actual building on the structure that we still worship in on Sundays.
   We don't have photographs from that August 1894, but mind does create images as I wander back there with questions about life in our community one-hundred and twenty three years ago.

Was that August as hot as it is now?
What did they do about the mosquitoes?
Who provided the saw mill to cut the timber used in construction?
How much traffic passed by on a average afternoon when the men worked on the church building after completing their work on their own respective farms?
How vital was the support they received from their wives and families, that they saw the project completed in a such a short period of time?
What visionary sketched out the plans for a room large enough room that it would still be used today to welcome new friends and guests?

   At the century mark, Earline Cole compiled a wonderful history of our church. She choose Psalm 102:18 as a theme, Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord. It is so true. We have been blessed by men and women, who could surely never have imagined the stream of persons yet unborn who would enter our little chapel. We are sending out invitations this week for our Church Anniversary on September 24 to give witness to the greatness of God. Mark your calendars now.
   Grace and peace, Scott

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Storm Around You and Me

Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”
- Mark 4:37-38

Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633  
   Panic is what we are tempted to do when waves come crashing in on the boat we are in. The disciples gave in to the temptation, even to the point that they accuse Jesus of not caring. The disciples were afraid. They knew the lake well, most of them growing up on its shores and working its water from their youth. When things suddenly change, people panic and that reaction, left unchecked, tries to replace common sense and truth. 
   Trust. Fear was not the only option, though. Jesus was not acting based on fear; in fact, he was asleep on a pillow. Jesus trusts that the waves cannot do more than they can do. They cannot touch his soul or the souls of the men on that boat. 
   We are 10,000 miles from that lake. It happened 2,000 years ago. The languages spoken there are now dead, but the story is still very much alive. This story is important. When the boat we are in is being battered by the waves, we have a choice to give in to fear or to trust. This is a word for America. This is a word for me. Is it a word for you, too?
   We are called to trust. We are called to give witness to the power of the one who calms the storms. We are called to not panic. The means of grace, given to us by God, to stay grounded in such trust include prayer, the scriptures, worship, and fasting. These get us through the storm.
   Before the story is over, Jesus spoke and the winds and storm were immediately calmed. He has that kind of power. Our task is to trust and not give in to fear.
   Grace and peace, Scott

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Throw Your Best at the Problem

   The subway system of New York City is wishing it were not in the news so frequently, lately. The system has experienced 32,000 delays in the past year, caused by overcrowding, crumbling tunnels, and an out-dated signal system that will take one billion US dollars and 50 years to fully replace. Did you know over 6 million passengers board the trains every day? They enter at any of the 472 stations along the routes that run under four boroughs. Earlier this week, to address some of the manageable causes of the delays, they deployed 1500 workers one night along the lines to make repairs.
   I know Houston County is a long way from New York City and very little about the subway makes you think about the church, but we do the same thing down here. We throw our best stuff - people - at our biggest concerns and challenges:

  • When Jesus’ spoke to his disciples in his final moments before ascending to heaven, he told them to go.
  • When we learn someone lost a loved one unexpectedly, we go (with food).
  • When the Spirit moves us to feed and clothe our neighbors, we go get friends to help make it happen.
  • When we see an elderly neighbor needs help sprucing up his yard, we grab some gloves and go.
  • When our friend rises to make their way down front to pray at the altar, we go.
  • When the truck drops off tons of food to be packed and shipped around the world with Rise Against Hunger, we go pitch in.

   The same is true for the families who gather with us every week. There is no greater responsibility than that of raising the next generation, so we send our people as parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, foster and adoptive parents, and even kind neighbors to help shine the light of Jesus on the concerns and challenges of growing up.
   We believe the church is called to partner with families to shine the light of Jesus into our kids’ worlds. This is so important, we throw our best at it every week: you.
Grace and peace, Scott

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Lifetime of Changing Seasons; Every Week Matters

   There is a season for everything, says Solomon in the first verses of Ecclesiastes. He says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens. 
First Day 2017
   This past week has marked the passage from the end of summer vacation for many families in our area and the start of school for students and teachers. Our prayers continue for all of the teachers and staff who daily give their hearts and minds to helping shape young people by God's grace. It is a holy calling.
First Day 2009
   This is also the season of first-day of school photos. Need proof? Simply open up any social media page and you will find them shared by the thousands. With Julie always already out the door to serve as a teacher herself, I have had the privilege of snapping these photos of our boys for a decade now. I love it. Traditions that allow you to mark the passage of time are particularly special. My boys suggested that this year should be the last of the first-day photos, but I am simply going to ask nicely again, next year.
   While Solomon's book of Ecclesiastes is mostly a downer, realizing his wasteful pursuit of pleasure over and above everything pure and good, he certainly gets it right with this passage about changing seasons. Julie and I keep these photos every year to remember when our boys were little, but we also mourn a little that these days are passing so quickly.
    Our church is committed to helping families make good use of every week to grow kids in wisdom and courage. Every new day marks the passage of time in front of our eyes. I am thankful you are on the journey with us. Grace and peace, Scott

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A small but important change sitting in front of you...

   The best research shows what every parent already knows - children move through phases every year of their young lives as they grow and change physically and emotionally, and in intelligence and personality. Whatever is happening with a child - be it good or bad - is Just a Phase!
   We are committed to being a place where children are able to thrive in every phase. With that in mind, Bonaire Church is returning to a tradition of having children in worship with us. This means that in the beginning of each Sunday service, your child will worship right alongside you! We want the younger members of our church to feel comfortable and welcome in the big worship environment as they grow up – especially for children who will be aging out of Children’s Church within the next couple of years.
   Our families with small children have already received this news in a couple of different pieces of communications over the summer, so I am writing to the rest of the church. Starting August 6th, children will attend the beginning of the service with their parents to sing, pray and participate before being dismissed to spend the remainder of the service in Children’s Church. Families have options; preschoolers thru first graders will have the option to be checked into the nursery before the service and then join the older kids halfway through the hour.
   We are sure of these things when it comes to our ministry with Families:

  • No one has more potential to influence a child’s relationship with God than a parent.
  • No one has more potential to influence the parent than the church.

   This change coming August 6 is another way we are continuing to live into these truths. Grace and peace, Scott

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Forget the devil, God is in the details

   The popular saying is that "The devil is in the details." I imagine it was first said when someone had gone searching for an error and finally found it hidden in something small. Anyone who has every worked on a car, assembled toys late on Christmas Eve, tried to copy their grandmother's recipe, learned a musical instrument, or any number of other examples can relate.
   God is really into details.Think about it: God created DNA and fingerprints, butterflies and beautiful clouds, every grain of sand and every star in the sky. No two of any of them are the same. Luke 12:7 says, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.How did God do it? Of course, God is into details.
   Allow me to take a detour; I read this week that Georgia Tech Basketball's coach, Josh Pastner, hired a friend of a friend to come spend three days in Atlanta this month teaching his coaching staff everything you could possibly know about making a lay-up. Some folks have made fun of him, but he believes that teaching his players to make even 1 or 2 more lay-ups they could win a lot more games. But, everyone who has ever played basketball knows that the lay-up is the first thing a kid learns when they pick up a ball. So, why have to relearn it? Because, when you have to execute it surrounded by the other team every detail of how you jump, turn, focus, and even apply finger strength matters. The details matter.
   Do we bring the same attention to details about the most important stuff of our lives? We know how to use a TV remote, and log onto Facebook? What about praying daily? What about reading the Bible with our families? What about saying I'm sorry? God is into the details.
   Grace and peace, Scott

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

From Scripture to Song to a Spirit-led Church

   It is probably silly, I know, but one of the many cherished things that my Grandfather passed down to me is a collection of poems and clippings that he typed out from notes of his own past sermons. I look through them from time to time and this week came across one that caught my eye. Of course, it is not a poem but a beloved song. My Grandfather even wrote in the name of the composer, Peter Scholtes. This is the clipping...

   I love this. I love that he loved it. Indeed, John 13:35 said it perfectly, "This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other." I believe this is what the church is about: one in the Spirit, walking hand in hand, working with each other, with all praise to the Father. 
   I love serving a church that puts all of this on display, so regularly. This has been our history, this is certainly our present, and I am so excited about our future.
   Grace and peace, Scott