Mission Reporting

What are the signs that a church is healthy?  How can we monitor our health to make sure we stay healthy?  These are the questions every church is asking themselves, and our Annual Conference has put forth a new initiative to assist us in the quest for prolonged health.  

Vital Signs is a conference wide initiative geared at examining data points from the local church to gauge health.  The conference is asking each church to provide a monthly report on various areas of ministry.  One of the areas they would like us to report is monthly mission.

To be quite frank, our church members do so much mission, either individually or as a group, that it is impossible for staff to keep track—that’s a tremendous achievement!  But it makes it hard to report monthly mission numbers, and it is our desire to paint an honest picture of the ministries you all engage in.

We have asked individuals whom oversee particular groups and organizations within our church to be point-people for recording weekly and monthly mission numbers.  Yet we know that many of you volunteer on your own.  We are asking that each time you serve that you would email me at trey@fumcedmond.org if you engage in service.  If you’d send me the date and hours served, I will personally keep track of our numbers for input.

Please help us show the Annual Conference that Edmond First is a place where church doesn’t just happen on Sundays, but every day!

 

Daily Lent Devotions

As Lent continues, you may wish to read my daily devotions on Genesis here.  If you are enjoying them, I would encourage you to make a comment on the actual post or to share it on your timeline.  Both of these help to move it to a wider audience and the readership grows each year.


This allows our church’s reach to expand beyond our current membership.  Some people who become aware of us from the blog posts, then begin to worship with us online.  And some will eventually come see us in person.

Regardless of a person’s involvement, I believe that people are spiritual in nature and that these devotions may help lead people to a deeper exploration of their faith.

This Sunday, we will continue to explore the seven deadly sins with a look at greed.  We will continue to follow the gospel reading of the lectionary with Mark 8:31-38.  Take a read before Sunday and see what you think!

I hope you’ll join us for one of our four morning worship services!  And I hope your Lenten season is becoming fruitful for you spiritually!

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.

Lenten Study


I will be sharing daily devotions each day (including Sundays) during Lent.

To get a sample from last year, here’s one on the Gospel of John: http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/2017/03/daily-devotion-for-lent-2017-first.html.  If you want to look at this from the beginning or any of the previous years, they are all online and available.

Please note the scripture link to Biblegateway.com for the day’s reading.  It will allow you to read online and although I like the New Revised Standard Version, you can change the tab at the link and select your preferred version of the Bible.

This year, I plan on looking at the entirety of the book of Genesis.  This book contains some of the great stories of the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) that gives us a glimpse into humanity’s first understandings of God.

For Lent, we partially pattern the forty day season on the forty day fast of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.  We remember that Jesus answers temptation with scripture.  Certainly, Jesus would have been shaped by these stories in Genesis.

And so I hope to view these stories daily from a Christian lens either to think about how they would have related to the ministry of Jesus or how they may relate to the body of Christ (the church) today.

If you have enjoyed taking part in these in the past, I would invite you to share it via social media with a friend so that you might journey in Genesis together during Lent.  A shared faith is a growing faith!

Each devotion will be available online and is posted around 3 am CST just in case we have some very early risers who want to start the day with a reading.  I try to post them on Facebook and Twitter each day so please feel free to comment or share on either format.

The Lenten season doesn’t have to be characterized by what you give up (although that isn’t a bad thing for a consumer culture) but it may also be defined by the discipline you take on.  A daily reading of scripture may just be what the doctor orders!

And so, may your Lent be contemplative this year!

In Christ,
Sam

How’s Your Course?

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During my senior year in college, I took a road trip from Stillwater to Seattle, Washington.  A friend of mine named Kenny lived there for a short while and needed to return to pick up his furniture.  So we drove his van non-stop to avoid paying for any motels.  While we were there, we stayed at my sister’s house (she lives just outside of Seattle).

The trip took us around 33 hours to make and we only stopped for gas and to eat.  The weather wasn’t that great through some of the Rocky Mountains since we went in February.  At one point, I was driving through Utah and Kenny was sleeping in the back of the van.  It was around 2 in the morning and I was getting sleepy as well.  I had the radio going and plenty of coffee but I didn’t notice the road conditions.

I continued to maintain my speed – I must have been doing at least 65 – through some pretty steep mountain roads.  Some fog set in and the visibility was pretty poor.  However, most likely due to my lack of sleep, I failed to reduce my speed.  We were zipping along and Kenny comes out from the back still half asleep and does a double-take at the road and the fog and our speed.

“Are you trying to kill us?”

“Huh?”

It was at this point that I realized, “Well, these conditions are just right for a major accident.”  So I reduced my speed and was wide awake after that!

Sometimes in life, we don’t really look at the path we are on with a clear head.  We may fail to understand how dangerous it really is.  Many times it wouldn’t take much to throw our lives into chaos that could have been avoided.

We will begin with a special service on Ash Wednesday and will continue on Sunday.  I hope that you will join us for worship on Ash Wednesday at 6 pm for a family friendly service or at 7:00 pm for our regular service.  At the 7 pm service, we will begin a sermon series on the seven deadly sins which has a deep history in the church as we consider what tempts human beings down the wrong path.  Ash Wednesday will let us look at pride and on Sunday, we’ll examine gluttony.  My hope is that our careful examination of these sins may just keep us from crashing!

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com

Music Ministry Update

Music Ministry Update
Andrew Schaeffer, Director of Music Ministries
andrew@fumcedmond.org

If you attended the 8:30 service this past Sunday you had the opportunity to hear our newly formed “Encore Choir”.  As the name suggests, this group is primarily made up of seniors who’d like to sing but might not want to commit to the more rigorous schedule of the Chancel Choir.  We also place a heavy emphasis on singing many of the cherished Gospel hymns and songs from hymnals such as the Cokesbury in a relaxed environment.

If the music on Sunday stirred your soul, we invite you to join us on Thursday mornings at 10:00 in the choir room!  Now is a great time to join as we’ll start learning music for Easter and beyond.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Andrew Schaeffer at andrew@fumcedmond.org or 405.341.0107 ext. 113.

P. E. N. s: Parent Education Nights


Why does my child act like this?  I feel like I’m in a parenting PEN.  I keep doing the same thing and not getting the results I want from my child.  Where can I go from here?  Learn more about why children act the way they do and maybe what to do to get the results you want.

The Preschool / Mother’s Day Out is hosting two (2) Parent Education Nights on February 15 and 22 from 6:00 to 7:30.   This event is by reservation only for all Preschool / Mother’s Day Out and Church families.  Pizza and a beverage will be provided at 6:00 with class starting at 6:30 and finishing at 7:30.  Childcare will be provided by the PS / MDO staff for preschool age as well as elementary and / or middle school children.

Jana Neufeld, MSW LCSW, Clinical Associate at Family and Children’s Consultants in OKC, OK will be the presenter for these events.

Dinner will be served in the CAC big room with the class location TBA depending on reservation response.

Bring the children in PJ’s, if you wish, and “throw them in bed” when you get home.  Deadline to sign up is Tuesday, February 13, if you and your family would like to attend.  Please make reservations by emailing fumcpreschooolmdo@sbcglobal.net  with the number of adults and children attending, as well as the ages of the children.  

 

Skyline Challenge

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Once again, we will challenge New Covenant United Methodist Church in a Skyline Food and Goods Drive.  The church with the most donated food, household items and toiletries will win bragging rights for the year!  

Skyline Urban Ministry is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to impacting lives, empowering those in need and addressing the roots of poverty in Oklahoma.  The ministry offers a variety of services including a clothing closet, eye clinic, and senior services.  They serve more than 300 families each week in their food pantry and depend on donations of food and household items such as toilet paper, shampoo and soap.

The challenge begins on Wednesday, February 14 and runs through March 25.  Will you help us provide for the needs of so many Oklahoma families by bring a food, toiletry item or household item such as detergent or paper towels?  Let’s show our Edmond First United Methodist spirit and win this challenge for a third year in a row!

Holding Up the Mirror

The variety of spiritual disciplines allows a person to hold up a mirror to one’s life.  Introspection is helpful in the walk with Christ.  Our hope is that the church will provide enough options that each person will find something redeeming in one of them.

The variety of spiritual disciplines allows a person to hold up a mirror to one’s life.  Introspection is helpful in the walk with Christ.  Our hope is that the church will provide enough options that each person will find something redeeming in one of them.

Holding Up the Mirror
The season of Lent comes early this year with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day.  This particular observance focuses on our own mortality and the spirituality that transcends our physical bodies.  Many people give up some kind of edibles - usually sweets or sodas or something bad for you.  This kind of discipline is a fast from particular foods which should help people focus on things that are more permanent.

Of course, the Lenten season leads up to Easter.  It is comprised of the forty days (not including the six Sundays) prior.  During this time, Christians seek to use things like fasts or extra prayer times or scripture readings to grow closer to God.  Our church will have three different studies available on Wednesday nights during Lent.  We will also have special morning devotions available at 6:30 during Holy Week (the week before Easter) as well as Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services that week.

Once again, I will be writing daily devotionals based on scripture.  This year, we will be exploring the entire book of Genesis.  The stories contained within the first book of the Bible run the gamut of human experience.  They are especially helpful as we see ourselves in the lives of these early Biblical characters.  This in turn helps us to understand how God continues to work with us in our lives.  A reference to daily scriptures as well as some brief commentary will be available on this blog each day starting February 14th.  If you are searching for a Lenten discipline, I would invite you to journey in Genesis with me.

Finally, our church is once more going to be collecting food for Skyline Urban Ministry in a contest with our sister church, New Covenant United Methodist Church during Lent.  If you decide not to bring canned goods, you may always donate money toward the cause.  Skyline can purchase groceries cheaper than we can.  Money that we have collected together as churches in the past two years has been used to purchase a truck and a walk-in freezer.  Your sacrificial giving has helped people to have food where otherwise they may have gone hungry.  This year, the money we raise will hopefully go toward a community garden in the adjacent lot to Skyline.  This will provide fresh produce to people who might otherwise not have it available.

Before Lent begins, there will be a final time of worship with Transfiguration Sunday.  We will finalize the series on God’s call in our life as we look at how we are called to continue the work of others.  We will be examining 2 Kings 2:1-12.  I hope you’ll join us if you’re in the Edmond area!

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.
Photo by tschundler via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Lent Season Studies

Lent Season Studies
Wednesdays  |  6 pm  |  February 21-March 14

Raising Kids in a Multicultural America
Team taught by Megan Borum, Rev. Don Vaught, and Rev. Trey Witzel |  Room 108 CAC
While a great deal of public discussion exists in regard to the impact of race and racism on children, meaningful dialogue about and resources for understanding the impact of race on children are woefully absent. These conundrums begin early in life and impact the racial development of children in powerful ways. What can we do within our homes, communities and schools? Should we teach our children to be “colorblind”? Or, should we teach them to notice race? What roles do we want to equip them to play in addressing racism when they encounter it? What strategies will help our children learn to function well in a diverse nation?


Means of Grace
Led by Joe Davis  |  Room 316M
The Bible tells us that God, through Jesus Christ, wants to shower  us with Grace, His unmerited love.   So why do we have a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof?  If God’s Grace is free, why does it not flow freely through our lives.  God’s grace is like a rain barrel.   It rains equally on the good and the bad.   But to appropriate God’s Grace, we need a structure for receiving it.   John Wesley,  our Methodist founder, talked about five means of Grace that function like a rain barrel.  They are prayer, the Scriptures, the Lord’s Supper, fasting, and worship.

Experiencing God Through the Practice of Prayer
Led by Rev. Beverly Powell  |  Library
Come ready to embrace quiet and stillness in order to cultivate your relationship with the Divine. Expect to leave refreshed. Each class will introduce a new prayer discipline.

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Is a Chameleon Faking It?

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Lectionary Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (NRSV)

One of the most fascinating creatures I’ve observed in the wild was an octopus while snorkeling off the coast of St. John’s island a few years ago.  The water was only about four feet so we could really see it moving around.  Sheryl captured it on video and you can see the octopus changing colors like a chameleon.  It was captivating!

As we think about this ability to adapt to one’s surroundings, we can see Paul’s attempt in Sunday’s epistle to be “all things to all people” so that he might convince them of the importance of faith in Jesus Christ.  Would this be perceived as “real” by others or is Paul just marketing himself as a means to an end?  

We have a need to be authentic in today’s culture.  If a pastor is judged to be fake in some form or fashion, he or she is quickly cast aside.  I’ve heard evangelists tell pastors to explore hobbies or interests so that you have an opportunity to meet people outside your church.  Some churches pay for country club fees in order to expose their pastor to others in this setting.  The idea behind this is that the relationships formed on the golf course might translate into the salvation of the rest of those teeing it up.  Unfortunately for me, I struggle to be a Christian on the golf course so rarely play!

But if I only engage in my hobbies in order to get in closer to you, it seems a bit contrived.  Most people don’t see you as truly interested in them but only as another number in the heavenly tally.  It appears disingenuous.    

But for Paul, his real interest is your salvation in Jesus Christ.  It supersedes anything else for him including his personal hobbies or interests.  Paul’s hobby is salvation.  Along with his main work and his leisure activity.  

So for today, we might look at salvation not so much as the moment of personal epiphany but as the relationship we have with God through our lifetimes.  So in this sense, meeting people where they are conveys the salvation that is more of a process than a moment.  

As we see God’s grace pervading all of life, we can recognize the variety of ways that people can encounter it.  And so for some in Paul’s day, it was discovered under the law.  For others, it was realized outside the law.  And for still others, it was portrayed even in their weakness.  Paul became all things to all people in order to share the universal application of God’s grace.

This Sunday, I’ll continue to explore this idea in my sermon entitled, “What is our Common Ground?”  We’ll look at God’s call for us to relate to one another in Christ.  If you can’t join us in person, check us out online!

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.

Me Versus All Y’all

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Lectionary Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (NRSV)

Our country has long been a champion of individual rights and freedoms with the Bill of Rights leading the way.  Individualism is a big part of American culture.  There is a growing sense that acting outside of socially acceptable norms will be corrected by those who come into contact with this behavior.  Of course, sometimes the offensive actions are ignored.  Those who are lazier more tolerant may think, “Let someone else police this jerk!”

There are certain freedoms we curtail individually on behalf of the common good.  Probably the most well-known example is yelling “Fire” in a crowded building.  We set a limitation on our freedom of speech and expression.  Falsely setting off panic among a group of people is not deemed acceptable!

So the common good is an important part of society as well.
A good society balances individual rights along with the good of the community.

This is what Paul is trying to do when he writes to the Corinthians in today’s scripture.  We may not understand the whole “don’t eat meat” concept.  Basically, most meat purchased in large metropolitan areas in Paul’s day had been gleaned from animals that were sacrificed in pagan temples.  Some who were “weak” would have had difficulty eating this meat because they would see it as participation in the worship of a deity other than God.

Paul’s solution?

Abstinence.

Some would argue that this actually penalizes those who were strong in the faith – in other words, those who didn’t see pagan influence over their dinner plans.  Why should we be punished for the ignorant?  It is not fair!
And yet, we abstain because we have compassion for those who would struggle with it.  Paul is indicating that our relationships are more important than our diet.    

Individually, I would have the theological rationale or the right to eat the meat.  But Paul is bidding us to curtail our appetites for the common good.  In a church, we band together to help one another.

A modern look at this might be how United Methodists serve grape juice for Holy Communion instead of wine.  Jesus did use wine and it was fermented.  However, we refrain from the alcoholic version of grape juice in consideration for those who need to have total abstinence from alcohol.

For those who declare that it is a more spiritually validating experience to use real wine, using the logic of Paul from today’s reading, he would say, “Get over it!”  To be spiritually strong is to be compassionate toward those who are having difficulty.  We give up our individual rights out of a position of strength rather than weakness.

So if we think about it this way, if we are complaining about something in church, does that mean we are spiritually weak?

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.

Photo by muffinn via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Youth News & Updates

The youth had a great December. We finalized our penny wars for Puerto Rico. The youth raised $228.76 for Puerto Rico. The Pathfinder Sunday School class invited us for an afternoon of snow tubing. The youth ended their month with a festive Christmas party where they made 40 hygiene kits for ice angels. Thank you for praying for us while we were at Winter Retreat January 12-15 with 43 youth and 8 adults.

A Year in Review

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Each year, we are required to tally our statistics and send them in to the conference.  Records are kept on every United Methodist church in Oklahoma.  I thought I would pass on how we are doing to you this week.

We had another year of gains in our church in 2017.  We closed the year by averaging 505 in worship (among our five Sunday worship services) which was up from 462 in 2016.  This is our highest average attendance since 2002 when Chuck Nordean was the pastor.  That year it was 513.  Our highest average ever was 534 in 1999.  We hope to eclipse that this year!  This means that we will need to grow in each of our services.

For our two new services, our 9:45 am service averaged 55 and our 7:00 pm service averaged 31 since they started in the fall.  While these are good averages for beginning, it also means that there are some Sundays that they are lower than this which may seem kind of small.  For our 9:45 service, this allows for visitors to have space in the sanctuary at 8:30 or 11:00.  In order to prop this up, if you don’t attend Sunday school, you might consider attending this service once a month which would not only help out for space in the two larger services but also allow you to meet some people that you may not already know!  

For our 7:00 pm service (the Late Night Service), they meet in Wesley Hall.  The band plays basically the same set as for our 10:50 am service but the sermon is different from the morning as Trey Witzel or Matt Borum preach a rotation.  If you attend one of the sanctuary services in the morning, this would be a great time for you to hear our wonderful musicians!  You can listen to two of their songs here: https://soundcloud.com/thelatenightservice/sets/album-teaser.  Please feel free to share this link with your friends!  Trey and Matt are both doing a great job with preaching this service and it is a time I can go and simply renew in worship.  Weekly Communion is served at this service.  While the target for Late Night is college age and young adults, all ages are welcome to join us for worship!

Our membership at the end of 2017 was 2737, up from 2672 in 2016.  We received 28 on profession of Christian faith, 39 on transfer from other United Methodist congregations and 22 from other denominations.  We took in slightly more members in 2016 with 33 professions of faith, 46 United Methodist transfers and 18 from other denominations.

Finally, our Sunday school attendance averaged 241 in 2017, up from 220 in 2016.  Sunday school is a real strength of this congregation signified by the great variety of classes that we offer.  As we enter into the new year, you might consider how your own discipleship might be increased through Sunday school or one of our other Bible studies.  As a plug, I will be teaching a four-week session on the book of Job starting Wednesday, January 17 from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm in room 108 of the Christian Activity Center.  All are welcome to join us for some lively discussion as we consider suffering, innocence and God’s role in our lives.

This Sunday, we’ll continue to look at God’s call upon our lives.  I will be preaching on Mark 1:14-20 as we examine the priority of God.  I hope you’ll join us Sunday for one of our five offerings of worship to God!  Come and help us reach our largest year in our church’s rich history!
 
In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.

 

This is the Gate of Heaven

St Paul's Cathedral in London draws the eyes heavenward to perhaps remind us of angels ascending and descending.

St Paul's Cathedral in London draws the eyes heavenward to perhaps remind us of angels ascending and descending.

Lectionary Reading: John 1:43-51 (NRSV)

What is it like to be known?

My first real friend's name was Ralph.  He lived in the house behind ours and we had an adjoining chain link fence that would divide our play in the backyard.  This didn't keep us from enjoying our daily time together as children and we invented lots of play together through the fence.

I can remember him calling my name, "Saaaammmy!!" when I was inside the house indicating that he wanted me to come outside.

I would just as often call out a sing-song, "Raaallph, come out and plaaay!" when I was ready for him to join me in the backyard.

We moved when I was five years old and Ralph was the first absence I remember.

To be known by another and to know that person in kind is significant.

In today's lectionary reading, Jesus seems to know Nathanael.  Nathanael responds in worshipful tones to Jesus, declaring allegiance through his praise.

Jesus alludes to angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man which is a self-reference.  This would call to mind the story of Jacob experiencing God in a dream in Genesis 28:10-22.  Jacob's theophany calls him to cry out, "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!"  Jesus later refers to himself as the Gate in John's Gospel.

As we context the Genesis reference, we remember that Jacob is fleeing from the homicidal wrath of his twin brother Esau whose paternal blessing he just swindled.  When Jesus tells Nathanael, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit" it makes one wonder if he was being sarcastic.  Nathanael had just asked the question, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  Maybe Jesus was just acknowledging that Nathanael was a blunt individual.  He called it like he saw it!

In any event, we see that Nathanael's response is to being known.

As we continue to look at God's call upon our lives, we also know that sometimes we are not interested in being known quite so thoroughly.  As we get older, there are calls we get from people that make us respond not with joy but with cringing.  We find that, like Jacob, we may end up wrestling with God.  Hopefully, we can discover a truth in ourselves and in those we meet.  Maybe, this realization will cause us to declare that we have entered the house of God and seen the gate of heaven.

In Christ,

Sam