Monday, June 26, 2006

July: From the Pastor's Pen (by Rev. Lynn McClure)

From the July Newsletter, Pastor Lynn's first article "From the Pastor's Pen"

My first days in Waldron have been a wonderful whirlwind of activity even before I preached my first sermon. But, hopefully, I have been able to convey without words my love of the Lord and my joy in being here in Waldron with all of you. St. Francis of Assisi is attributed with the thought, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words."

So far I have been privileged to witness and benefit from a jubilant gospel parade of people called Waldron United Methodist Church. A group of many willing people helped us move our "stuff" into the parsonage and to my church study. Thank you ever so much!! We have met so many smiling people, already we feel extremely welcomed and blessed. Watching you all work together for the Arkansas Conference Youth Choir visit, the Relay for Life and Vacation Bible School. I see a church alive! Keep up the good work in Christ's name and thank you once again.

In the June newsletter, Nathan laid out before the church some things to keep in mind as we live as Christ's Church. I believe this provides us witha good solid basis in which we begin our ministry together as pastor and congregation. I am thankful for Nathan's ministry with you this year and feel privileged to be his successor. I look forward to serving with you.

As we move into this new phase together, I pray we will do what God is blessing and that we have a long and fruitful ministry together.

Grace & Peace
Pastor Lynn

P.S. We wish Nathan and Lara a very Happy Anniversary. From your friends at Waldron United Methodist Church.

Introducing Our New Pastor and Family

Written by the Rev. Lynn McClure for the May 2006 Newsletter at the request of the church.

To the people of Waldron United Methodist Church:

I was excited to hear of my appointment to Waldron United Methodist Church. Thank you to everyone for the early welcome through email and phone calls. I am greatly anticipating the opportunity to serve among you and with you in the Waldron community. My husband, Gene and I feel this will not only be an excellant appointment for me but a wonderful experience and community for our children.

I call myself a transplanted Arkansan. Though born in Elkhart, Indiana, I have claimed Arkansas as my home since age 10. I have a strong belief in prayer and love to sing and play music though I may not be very good. I enjoy the outdoors, small hikes and being in or near water. There is something so very special about the symphony of sounds I hear when in the woodsw or at water's edge that brings to me a taste of God's green grace that renews me.

My husband, Gene is a paramedic currently with LifeNet out of Texarkana, working at the DeQueen post. He loves to travel, attend sporting events, and listen to music. Gene feels his work is also a calling like my ministry. I whole-heartedly agree. Gene has his sisters & their families in Conway and my only brother lives and workds in the San Diego area. All of our parents have entered the Church Triumphant. My father passed in late August of cancer but his wife still lives in the Mtn. Home area and we love her dearly.

Gene & I have three children. Callie-Anne, age 19, is a fine arts student at the University of Central Arkansas. She is preparing to be a studio photographer. Trey, age 15, is currently a ninth grader with a zest for life, especially as he was the school mascot (the blue darter AKA The Bird) for the past two years at Lockesburg High School. Trey loves to skateboard, listens to music and recently recieved Life Rank in Scouting. He will be working on his Eagle rank. Kenna is 8 years old and currently in 2nd grade. She's been involved in Scouting over the past three years as a Daisy and a Brownie. Kenna loves books, writes her own books and also loves life. Both Trey and Kenna have been on the area swim team, the DeQueen Dolphins.

Again, we are looking forward to our move to and ministry in Waldron. May grace and peace go with Nathan, Lara and Wesley as they prepare for thie move to Oklahoma. Godspeed to you all.

Grace & Peace to all of you at Waldron UMC
Pastor Lynn A. Lewis McClure

June: From the Pastor's Desk (by Rev.Nathan Mattox)

The following article written by the Rev. Nathan Mattox was posted at Pastor Lynn McClure's request since she refers to it in part in the July newslettter article "From the Pastor's Desk" and gives it a firm but enthusiastic AMEN.

This is the last newsletter article I'll write for the church, and I want to begin bysaying how thankful I am that I was brought here to Waldron to begin my ordained ministry. I'll always remember you all as my first parish -- I was honored to join the ministry of this congregation. I believe the Spirit is moving in this congregation. You have a demeanor of openness, enthusiasm, and dedication. New people are taking leadership roles, and the church continues to grow. I have often thought to myself how lucky I was to serve a congregation that is so willing to allow for new things and fresh ideas. It is sometimes difficult to get beyond "the way we've always done it" and it seems to me that this congregation knows which traditions to foster and of which to let go. I'll leave you with some things to consider that I believe would enhance the spiritual life of this congregation. These are instead ideas for YOU to take more ownership over your participation in this body of Christ.

1. Don't make us ask you--If you have any willingness to participate in the worship life of the congregation, either as a liturgist or as an usher or acolyte or a greeter--don't just sit there and wait to be called on. Sign your name on the sign-up sheet at the back of the congregation. We have many more women that are willing to read the liturgies and sing in the choir tha we have men it seems, so you men need to take the bull by the horns and sign up for liturgist or join the choir. Our congregation is fairly open to the ordaining of women -- and that's good because it's enlightened, it's Biblical, and it's a great witness to the community. But many people in the church are concerned with the shortfall of men going into the ministry. Most seminaries at this point have more women than men enrolled in MDIV programs. It is truly a blessing to have women ordained to serve in priestly roles in the church -- but you can bet that the shortage of men is probably due to the widespread failure of men to take an active role in the worship life of local congregation. Do something about it! It starts with the men in our pews.

2. Regarding the role of the greeter -- We have a system in place that would ensure that we have someone at the front door making people feel welcome -- the system just needs people to actually make it work. Too many Sundays we simply have someone to decide on the spot to be the greeter that morning. What if no-one decides to be the greeter, then the role is overlooked for that Sunday? The role of the greeter is important -- it is an integral to helping new-comers feel welcome and in tune with the congregation that they visit. This church MUST make new disciples in order for this church to remain a vibrant ministry to this community. In order to do that, the greeter helps a person take the "first step" into the life of this congregation. This goes for everyone -- when you see a new person, engage them in conversation. Without this "human touch", the church seems cold and unwelcoming. Fortunately, this church is learning this way of discipleship -- it hasn't always been the case. I've spoken with people in our community and even people in our church who've said that when they first came to visit, no-one said anything to them, and they sensed it was a cold, lifeless place. Don't let this ghost haunt you -- it takes a continual presence and effort to be a welcoming place. I've been proud of the evangelism through hospitality that I've seen in this congregation -- keep it up!

3. Participate in a Bible Study. We only have church once a week at this church. That is an anomaly in this community. To supplement our worship together, I've tried to maintain some other Bible study or class to provide opportunities for fellowship and faith building. It is up to you to take advantage of these opportunities. Faith is not a destination -- it is a journey. Communion is the gas station, worship is the beautiful views out the window, and Bible study is the roadmap. If you don't study the Bible, or participate in some small group activity within the life of the church, you are just driving around for a joy-ride. That's okay -- but we're called to go somewhere! Christ says "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Bible study and small group activities help us find that way.

4. Plan a mission experience. Without an outward focus, the church can become stale and lifeless. Mission not only helps other people -- it helps this local congregation grow and become more vital. There are many opportunities close by for mission projects -- Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock, Arkansas Children's Home, Oklahoma Indian Mission Conference, Sager-Brown Depot for UMCOR in Louisana, Habitat for Humanity. We have people in our congregation who have the skills to lead a work group. We seem to have the way -- do we have the will? This church needs to get on the road. The road is where one oftentimes meets the Risen Christ, you know. Mission isn't about having all the answers and then going out to tell people what to think and what to believe. Some people approach mission this way, but I believe it ends up being unhealthy and counter to the Gospel. Mission is about helping those who need help. You don't have to say a thing about Jesus on a mission trip -- do you believe that? Through your work, friendship, effort, and willingness you preach the Gospel without even saying a word about it. Of course, sharing with others about your belief is a wonderful thing that if that is what suits you -- but my point is that you don't have to have it "all figured out" to be a missionary.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Nathan Mattox's Last Sermon in Waldron, June 11

John 3:1-17
Philippians 1:1-11

I’ve come to love this bit of scripture. It has been a journey for me though. To tell you the truth, John 3:16 used to annoy me to no ends. You see people wave big posterboards with it on it at football games. It always struck me as being a scripture some Christians with definite ideas about God were trying to shove down people’s throats. For God so loved the world that he gave his ONLY son, is how I always heard it. The “only” rang in my ears—I sensed people used the verse to further their ideas of exclusivity and narrowness. Jesus is God’s ONLY son—everyone else is wrong. Whether this is indeed the intention of those who wave the verse at NASCAR races, or whether I was being paranoid and hypersensitive, I had to come to terms with this verse of Scripture. “What about John 3:17? I used to say to myself.” For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save it? Didn’t that fly in the face of what I imagined those people saying?

Perhaps I just needed to grow up a little. I still don’t agree with the exclusivists—those who try to shrink God down to fit into our shabby boxes. I can tell you—especially at this moment—God and boxes have nothing in common. But as I became a father, I began to see into John’s statement about Christ in a new light. God’s only son? God felt about Jesus as strongly as I feel about Wesley? And Jesus is telling me that God feels the same way about me as well? It wasn’t until I had a son that I was able to see the depth and the mystery and the true emphasis of this scripture. “Only” is not a statement of exclusivity, it is a statement of theological significance. God loves Christ as a father with an only son loves that son. God loves me as much as I love Wesley! This is incredible! The emphasis shifts to “For God so LOVED the world!”
Isn’t it great when emphasis shifts? I think the emphasis shifted for Nicodemus, who came to see Jesus after the veil of night had fallen. He seemed to be more interested in flattering Jesus into telling him what one had to DO to know God like Jesus knew God. But Jesus unsettled him with a riddle of sorts—an idea that we don’t do much more than what we do when we are born. It is not what we do, but what we are that counts. Jesus wants Nicodemus to know that we cannot see the Kingdom unless we are “born from above.” Jesus wants us to know we are God’s children, born of the spirit.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that Paul was one who was born from above—and how did that new life express itself in his life? With an enormous amount of gratitude. Paul was thankful for life and thankful for each breath that brought a new opportunity to sing the Praises of Christ. In his introduction to his letter to the Philippeans, Paul is bubbling over with gratitude for the spiritual awakening of his friends in Philippi. I can attest to you that this great experience of being re-born by the wind fills one with gratitude because I am extremely thankful for who you are and what you are becoming as a church—a family of faith.

I told you last week about how celebrating the sacraments have been the most important thing I feel I have done here. It has indeed confirmed the calling that I have to the order of Elder (which is the only order in our system of ordination that is able to celebrate the sacraments) The Baptisms that I have been privaledged to celebrate—Garret’s, Cameron’s, Jaylon’s, Allen’s, Logan’s, Ethan, Evan, and Nathan, Hudson’s—Have been a blessing to me, as I hope they have been to you. Through the sacraments, This church family has shown me something of the familial nature of discipleship. As I introduced those I baptized to you as your new brothers in faith, and as I told each of you “Brother, or Sister, this is the Bread of Life,” the Spirit that works through me taught me something about being “born from above.”
You see, when we are born from above, we are all brothers and sisters, and so we should refer to, or at least think of each other as such.

But it’s verse 8 of John’s chapter that I wanted to especially lift up to you today. It has always been one of my favorites—the part about “no-one being able to see which way the wind has come from or where it is going. The same thing applies to people born of the Spirit.” We, as Spirit born people, must let go of our “destination oriented” mindset—we cannot tell which way we are going as a people because we are born of the Spirit—the Spirit leads us into mystery, and we must trust the Spirit’s guidance.
This is at no time more keenly felt than at a transition in the church. As I leave and a new pastor takes the leadership role in this congregation of believers, we must trust the Spirit’s guidance. We do not know the destination of our faith walk, but we know the path! Christ goes ahead of us in the journey. I see him putting luminaries along the way, lighting the path, being a lamp unto our feet. The Spirit is the wind at our back, propelling us along the way. It may seem like a difficult trail to traverse at times, but we know we are never alone along the way.
We know we are never alone because of this fellowship that we share—a fellowship of the Spirit. This fellowship is led by Christ. He is our captain, he also brings up the rear, comforting and standing with those who struggle.
Much like Nicodemus, I’ve only been here with you for a brief time—a visit in the night, in the scheme of things. But even though we’ve only been together for a brief time, you’ve given me some riddles that have moved me toward a more meaningful and mysterious understanding of discipleship.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Spaghetti Supper News

The spaghetti supper was a big success! We raised around $700 for cancer research through our relay for life team! Thanks to everyone who participated!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Pentecost Sermon--June 4

Acts 2: 1-21
Ezekial 37: 1-14

The beginnings of something new are also the revival of something old and gone.

We celebrate the arrival and participation of the Spirit in the sacrament of baptism—recognizing that as the prophet Joel says, I will pour out my Spirit upon you.

We celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit of Wisdom/ the Wisdom that is present at Creation according to the book of Proverbs—this Wisdom that is heard and inspires the writing—and study—of our Holy Scriptures.

What we call Pentecost is also a revival of something lost—Lost life, lost inspiration. The valley of dry bones was a metaphor by God through the prophet Ezekial. It was a word-painting of a people who had been captured, scattered, and destroyed by the Babylonians. But God tells Israel that it will be lifted up. It would rise from the ashes like a Phoenix from the fire.

Jesus is himself a personification of this Israel. He rises from the grave and in so doing give us hope again that God will not forsake God’s people. Ezekial and Luke give us hope that what was lost is regained.

In the chapters following the dry bones, God gives Ezekial a blueprint for the Temple—in so doing God gives concrete evidence of God’s continuing presence even in the midst of slavery. You know someone is serious about something when they make a blueprint. I’ve been told that this church was reminded of it’s hope and vision by the use of a blueprint. The fellowship hall blueprint had hung in the pastor’s office for some years when some hopeful members of this congregation held it up for all to see—Let’s do this! We have the blueprint!
The Gospels preceding Acts tell of the blueprint of Christ—that blueprint of the body as God’s temple. Everything we know as Holy and Sacred we see in Christ—a human life as a blueprint for not just the Temple—but the whole Kingdom of God.

But Christ isn’t only the blueprint, he’s the building blocks—he refers to himself as that Cornerstone in Psalms—the one that the builders rejected! He becomes the building blocks not in physical mortar and stone, but in Spirit. We enter a new dimension of seeing when the Spirit of God enters us! We see a world of people enlightened like the flame of a lamp. We hear a world that understands each other despite cultural differences. The tongues of fire and the tongues of speech are united in the birth of the church—the Pentecost. The power (dynamis) of the Spirit is its real presence without even being visible to the human eye. It is visible to the eye of the Spirit. The eye of the heart that can be opened—according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we read last week. They can be opened and see the reality of Christ as the cornerstone and the building blocks in the Spiritual reality of our lives.

………………This is why church isn’t just another social club—this is why our opportunity here is not to just eat spaghetti and collect money for cancer research. In those actions, The building blocks of the Spirit make the church even higher and more beautiful. The blueprint is in the life of Christ, and construction begins in the Acts of the apostles. Acts doesn’t end with a completed building. In fact, our Bible doesn’t even end with an ending—it ends with a beginning. The beginning of a New Jerusalem—one that Christ takes the scissors and cuts the ribbon on. If the New Jerusalem is a ship, then Christ breaks the bottle of champagne on the bow. Actually, this metaphor is perfect, since the practice of christening and launching a ship with a bottle of champagne traces its roots to the offering of a precious substance to the gods at a ship’s launch. It’s a tradition as old as the Babylonians. Christ is the bottle of champagne broken on the ship’s bow. And Christ offers his life as a sacrifice to our relationship with God. Showing us a life of purpose—a blueprint.
That blueprint is put into construction in the lives that are touched by Christ today in this body of believers. The Spiritual bricks of the kingdom are placed carefully by this church in our worship and our action. The Kingdom grows in the lives of discipleship and study with the presentation of God’s words to our growing family. It expands with the adoption of a new brother in Christ with the ritual of Baptism. It is restored and renovated in our own hearts as we come to the table of communion with forgiveness in our hearts. As that poem says on the front of your bulletin—Christ carves a hollow in our wooden hearts—one that is filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Pentecost is not only about something new. It’s not just a new army marching over the horizon and stomping bones underfoot. It is a resuscitation of that which has perished. It is not just a good bye party for a departed savior. It is a welcome wagon for the Spirit’s entry. Praise God! Praise God! In so doing we put our weight on the cornerstone that will never break! Praise the Master Builder, the Blueprint, and the Spiritual Stones and mortar. Let the Kingdom be built with our lives and our worship! Amen!