Monday, July 30, 2007

St. Yootz Day coming soon! We must order tix by Aug. 10!

July 29 sermon, The World is my parish

Matthew 28: 16-20
Isaiah 49: 1-6

my favorite quote in all of Christian tradition, and one that applies quite well to our United Methodist heritage of mission work—St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel wherever you go….IF you have to, use words!”
During the past century, this saying of Francis’ could have been a motto for our mission outreach throughout the world.
Many in the Anglican church, the church to which Charles and John Wesley always remained devoted, felt threatened by John’s ministry among the common people. Shut out of preaching venues, Wesley resorted to preaching in the fields, in some cases drawing as many as 20,000 people. It is during this chapter in Wesley’s ministry when he uttered those words that are now celebrated by the church, “The world is my parish!” When Wesley was shut out of even his home church in Epworth, he preached from the top of his father’s grave, right outside the front doors of his birthplace and where his father served as a priest for 40 years.
Our theological father was relentless and creative in his passion to “make disciples.” He saw opportunities and organized a mission to meet the needs of a community which wasn’t being met by the church. It is in his legacy that we continue to grow and meet the needs as “mission outposts” of the one true church.
Our gospel lesson is the mission statement of the United Methodist Church. Christ wants us to share the good news with the world. During the sermon on the mount, earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to look at it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” This passage, translated by Eugene Peterson in the Message, illuminates well that the gospel we bring is salt, it is light.
So often we think mission is about going and teaching inferior natives why they are wrong and we are right about cultural customs. This is not mission—that approach leaves the taste of bitterness, not saltiness. That doesn’t pick up the “God-flavors” of the earth, it tastes like imperialism.
So many times, people quote today’s scripture and leave off the last half of verse 20—they envision “making” disciples as something similar to making my cats refrain from using the bathroom in the house. First you hold their noses down to the mess they’ve made, then you give them a good swatting. So often we forget the “God-colors” that the light of the Gospel helps us see. The “Great commission” holds hands with the “Great Promise.” “For I shall be with you until the end of the age.”
This is the Light—this is the saltiness. Without the Great promise, the Great Commission is a futile endeavor. Unless we breathe the breath of God when we spread the Good news, we are sowing seeds on the rocks.
The United Methodist Africa University is a light on a light-post. At the main campus in Zimbabwe, Africans from many countries come to attain degrees in resource management, public health, peace and governance, and much else. We have an opportunity to support many missions and ministries through our participation with various arms of the church, such as the Nothing But Nets Campaign, which also directs fund to Africa to purchase mosquito nets that will prevent malaria. The General Board of Global Mission organizes our ourreach both far and near, and is directly responsible for funding the San Marcos Community Center, where our mission trip this past week was based. I saw quite saltiness when I observed everyone working in different areas of our house like it was a beehive this past week. Youth putting down tiles and painting and caulking and mudding, men putting up doorframes and sheetrock and bathrooms, women painting and sweeping, putting together doorknobs, etc. We worked hard and we had a great time doing it! We didn't just show light through our work, we showed it through our play as well. We had fellowship and worship with the other church groups who came to work (even if most of them were from Texas!) Our site manager, Keeley, remarked how hard working our group was and was glad he was assigned to our group. (At this point in the sermon, Nathan asks the attendees of the trip to give their testimony on when our group was salt or light---some of the responses were:)

We were not only light to others, but had the light shown to us--by Keeley, by other work groups.

It was great to see the adults handing down wisdom to the youth. Letting them run power tools and showing them how to use them. We were empowering the next generation of mission trip leaders!

It was a good example that the Body of Christ has many parts and functions. All of the workers, young and old, had something they could do to help.

It was inspiring to see our youngest worker, Colby, become the quartermaster of the group. He could take a request for a tool and be back with it in under 15 seconds. He was also found to have great skill putting together faucets, doorknobs, and other complex tasks.

(Many other great memories were shared. If you attended the trip and wish to add something here like you did in the service, please leave it in a comment below)

The world is our parish. It’s through these doors. That’s where we spread the word about the great news that we’ve heard. God is with us. To the end of the age. As Isaiah lamented, sometimes it seems that we labor in vain, like the problems of this world are too huge for us to change. But God doesn’t just want us to be a servant. He tells Isaiah, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." God doesn’t just want us to subscribe to some ideals, God wants to shine THROUGH us! If we sit around and are lazy with our faith and our witness, if we aren’t responding to Christ’s promise to be with us, we are hiding that light under a bushel! Thank God we can be inspired by our church to do as Christ calls us and to “let it shine!”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

District Youth council Aug. 5

There will be a District Youth Council meeting on Sunday, August 5 at 2:30pm at FUMC, Fort Gibson . At this meeting we will be electing officers for the upcoming year. In addition, we will plan out our fall calendar of events.

Each church is invited to have two youth and one adult representative as voting members of the youth council. Please make your students aware that the offices that we will be electing are: President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Vacation Bible School Photos

Here's a sampling of our great week of VBS. The kids had a great time! Thanks to all who helped.

Guest Preacher for July 22 bio

We are fortunate to host Rev. Dr. Moorer on July 22. Rev. Nathan Mattox and Bill's wife Helen also serve together on the Oklahoma Conference Council for Environmental Justice. Come and listen to Rev. Mooerer's sermon, "The difference between Faith and Religion."

Bill Moorer was born in Muskogee and graduated from Central High School there. He holds four earned degrees -- in English, Theology, and the behavioral sciences. His doctorate, in Counseling Psychology, is from Oklahoma State University.

He served twenty years as a United Methodist parish minister in Oklahoma: at Jenks, Drumright, Enid, Midwest City, Duncan, and Clinton. He served eight years as Campus Minister at Oklahoma State, five years as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, and five years as Superintendent of the Lawton District. He retired in 2000, after 41 years of service.
Bill and his wife, Helen, live in Muskogee, and are parents of two grown children, and have three grandchildren. He currently serves as a part-time chaplain at Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center in Muskogee

July 15 Sermon: Go and Do, Sit and Listen

Deut 30: 9-14
Luke 10: 25-42

Go and Do, Sit and Listen.
During my senior year of college, I studied the English reformation while abroad for a term at Oxford University. It was quite inspiring to walk in the shadows of those ornate gothic spires on the way to my tutorials. I remember the huge book on Thomas Cranmer that I was assigned, which I fortunately found in the Oxford Student Union Library.
I was surrounded by beauty and history. Much of the English Reformation, not to mention the later Wesleyan revivals, happened in the town I was studying in. I remember riding my bike across the little cross in the middle of the street where Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake when his reformations fell out of favor with the monarchy.
Oxford was a student’s city, there were pubs on every corner, and always something happening at one of the colleges. There were also a lot of homeless people. They would particularly come out and beg for money on the weekend nights, when the city center would be crawling with students making their way from one pub to another. I distinctly remember on several occasions when I would notice the young people begging for money, I would cross to the other side of the street so that I wouldn’t have to make excuses why I wasn’t going to help them.
That’s the image that came to my mind this week when I reflected on this scripture. It was convicting. I didn’t want to be bothered with the needy, so I simply walked to the other side of the street so I wouldn’t have to deal with them. I can see the Priest and the Levite averting their eyes so they could pretend (to themselves) that they didn’t see the assaulted man lying in the road there, can’t you?
Jesus paints a picture for us. Describes priest and Levite walking clear on the other side of the road when encountering the person in need. That distance is an adequate description of how far we are from eternal life when we fail to live the commandment of Love—when we fail to love our neighbor. We are on the clear other side of the road from eternal life. Eternal life is right under our noses, and we pretend like we don’t see it and hurry along our way.
What prompts this story is a question. It is a question that we no doubt would pose to Jesus if we had the opportunity. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And it is a question that Jesus, in true Rabbinical methodology, answers with a question. “You know the law, how do you read it?”
“How do you read it?” is kind of a strange question, isn’t it? Jesus knows he is dealing with an expert in the law—he wants to know, how do you read it? Do you read it conservatively, not adding to or taking away from the original document, like we expect from our judicial appointees? Do you read it with an eye for detail, perhaps looking for loopholes or caveats? Do you read it looking for an overarching theme, like Jesus seemed to promote?
Yes, we find the lawyer knows the answer that Jesus wants to hear. Perhaps he was even there when the Pharisees had tested Jesus by asking him to define the greatest law, and Jesus crystallizes all 613 laws into 2 in Deut 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. And Love your neighbor as yourself.” .
The importance of the qualifiers heart, soul, mind, and strength, is to plant the flag of God’s sovereignty over the whole of one’s life. God’s claim on us reaches to every area of our experience, to our innermost being (heart); our lives—what gives us our individual identity (soul); our energy, strength, resolve, and resources (might); and our understanding and intellectual capacities (mind). No part of ourselves is to be withheld from God.
Three loves characterize the life of one who is already experiencing a measure of that life that will characterize the age to come: love of God, neighbor, and self. Only in this sequence of priority, however, does each require the others. Perhaps in asking, “How do you read it?” Jesus is asking the lawyer and us, “Do you read it with your intellect or do you read it with your heart? Do you read it with the intention of doing it?”
Jesus responds: “Do this, and you will live.” Eternal life is found not just in knowing the commandments but in doing them. The answer to the lawyer’s question is implicit in the question itself: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Those who live rightly ordered lives now—living out of their love for God, others, and self—show that they have been touched by the kingdom of God. They will have the capacity to receive the promised inheritance: life in fellowship with God and others in the age to come.
As an illustration as to just how broadly this “neighbor” idea is to be extended, Jesus tells the story of a stranger caring for another stranger while on a treacherous road. Jesus defies our expectations not once, but three times in his description. It is not a priest, or a Levite, but a hated Samaritan who responds to the needs of the fallen man with care and compassion.
Immediately after this text, we find the story of Mary and Martha, and Jesus seems to reverse the qualifications for living rightly. Here, Martha is the one who is “going and doing,” and it is Mary whom the Master uplifts.
Neither the story of the good Samaritan nor the story of Mary and Martha is complete without the other. Each makes its own point—the Samaritan loves his neighbor, and Mary loves her Lord—but the model for the disciple is found in the juxtaposition of the two. To the lawyer, Jesus says, “Go and do,” but he praises Mary for sitting and listening. The life of a disciple requires both.
It’s a difficult balancing act. Oftentimes our personalities lend us to one extreme or the other. Martha is given as an example of one who compulsively “does” and forgets to nurture the other side of the spiritual life. Here, Jesus, whom she calls “Lord,” is in her very own living room—and she is in the kitchen banging around pots and pans trying to get her sister’s attention!
How often we fall victim to our own predispositions. We go to them, and then we feel justified in staying there because “that’s what I most naturally do,” or “that is where I feel most comfortable.” I think it is pertinent for us to understand there is a difference between “gifts” and predispositions. Paul outlines various gifts of ministry, different “fruits of the Spirit,” but we should remind ourselves that we are all called to both “Love our God with all our heart, soul, might, and mind,” and “Love our neighbor as ourselves.” We should all balance “go and do” with “sit and listen.”
Where do you think your pre-disposition lies? What ways do you see yourself nurturing the less natural side of discipleship?
Upper Room Ministries, which is supported by the UMC General Board of Discipleship, has developed a wonderful program called “Covenant Discipleship Groups.” The CDG’s are based on the general rule to “witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through Acts of Compassion, Acts of Justice, Acts of Devotion, Acts of Worship under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. CDG’s are groups of up to 7 people who meet together each week and give each other accountability on these four actions. If you hold the four rules up to our two stories today, you see that Devotion and Worship are the two displayed most compellingly by Mary in the second half of the reading, and Justice and Compassion are displayed very beautifully by the Samaritan.
The power of these two stories consists not just in that they exemplify the great commands of 10:27 but in Jesus’ choice of characters to illustrate the love of neighbor and the love of God: a Samaritan and a woman. The social codes and boundaries were clear and inflexible; a Samaritan would not be considered a model of neighborliness, and a woman would not sit with men around the feet of a teacher.
Jesus takes his listeners to task for our inherent predjudices by making the heroes of the story those we would least likely expect. He undercuts our interest in getting ourselves off the hook by characterizing this kind of behavior as “saintly” or “next to impossible” by putting the behavior in those whom his listeners would certainly feel superior to.
Here’s where the Deut. text comes in— God says, “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”
How far are you from eternal life? God writes the law on your heart. It is closer than the air you breathe. He asks us to respond to the stirring of compassion: To nurture it and act upon it. God asks us to take time to nurture our spirits. He asks us to sit with him and be still and listen. We have a balancing act to accomplish. This is possible for us to live, but we must be diligent, purposeful, and willing.

I have heard God calling me to introduce this covenant discipleship group to this church because it meets the need for us to live balanced lives of discipleship. I have studied how it works, and have concluded that we should begin with a pilot group who will commit to it for a year and keep in close contact with the church council to appraise them of its progress. I have even thought of several of you who I would like to be in the group. This is a way of life for a church. You can see more about it on the website on your bulletin or if you are interested I have printed out 14 brochures for you to take.
The group will write its own covenant, the individuals will commit to specific actions of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion, then each week the group will meet for an hour to “watch over each other in love.” The covenant is the only agenda of the meetings. The participants share with one another how they fulfilled or neglected the covenant that week. Together, the group holds each member accountable and helps each disciple to grow closer and more balanced in public and private works of mercy and works of piety.
This is a re-claiming of our roots. This is the original Methodist class meetings that gave birth to our great church. Through this attentiveness, I believe our church can be re-born and renewed. As we respond to the word being shared through our affirmation of faith and song of invitation, I implore you to look within your hearts and judge if this is where God is calling you.
Come forward to the chancel during the hymn of invitation or tell me on the way out of the sanctuary if you would like to participate or if you would like to just take a brochure and pray with it this week. “Go and Do Likewise, Sit and Listen to your Lord.” It is our invitation to eternal life—and it doesn’t begin when we die: it begins as soon as we commit to taking it on.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Are you ready for some paintball?

Youth and anyone else who wants to have a great time on Sunday will be heading to Paintball Adventure Games this Sunday at 1:30. That gives you time to eat lunch before we leave. The place closes at 5, so I guess that means we'll be back by 6 or 6:30. This is in place of normal UMYF hours 5-6:30 for this day. Equipment rental and 500 paintballs is $23. I think that'll get you through 2 1/2 hours of play.
If you want to come, but the cost is prohibitive, please give the pastor a call. 733-2648. Reply to this post if you are coming! I need to know how to coordinate rides, etc. Go to the link above for more info about the place we're going. I've been there before and it is a blast.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

July 9 Sermon, Harvest is Plentiful

Sorry for the delay in getting this week's sermon online.

Galatians and Luke

You’ll reap what you sow! How many of us have heard this phrase uttered at us in our lifetimes? Perhaps some of us have hurled this adage at others we generally dislike. Perhaps we have watched someone’s life fall apart who never seemed to work at “life” in the first place and we have muttered to ourselves or turned to a trusted friend and shrugged, “Well, you reap what you sow.”
It is often said with disdain when we see someone who is corrupt or mean getting their just desserts. Well, you reap what you sow! Always said in this tone of providential perspective.
Yes, we usually utter the ancient wisdom, “you reap what you sow,” in hindsight. And you know another adage about hindsight as well—it is 20/20! Paul, however, uses the phrase to diagnose a present dilemma. He saw people putting their trust in circumcision. They were sowing in the flesh. They were planting their spiritual hopes in a system of religion and cultural distinction. And Paul warned them—“IF you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption in the flesh.”
As I mentioned last week, if we hear the word “flesh” and think about sexual sins, we are missing the larger point of what Paul is describing by “Flesh.” Flesh is the name he gives to all those practices of human nature which are contrary to the God of Love, unity, embrace, and reconciliation. Flesh, especially in the community of believers is more usually manifested as enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy. If we examine our own lives and we can’t account for any “sorcery, fornication, and drunkenness” and therefore think we are not in the grip of the Flesh, we need to take a harder look at chapter 15!
To further expand on what Paul means by “sowing in our own flesh,” we must also remember that Paul is confronting the specific practice of circumcision and what it represented in the community to whom he was writing. Paul was confronting that notion that you could put your ultimate faith in a cultural practice that demarcated Jews from non-Jews. The cultural practice of circumcision was literally a work of the Flesh that Paul saw creating much strife and jealousy and quarrels and dissensions among this community.
To translate into our time, Sowing in our own flesh would perhaps be putting our ultimate trust in our religious practices and cultural constructs instead of on the movement of the Spirit among us. It could be akin to saying—“You’ve got to practice religion THIS WAY in order to be saved.” “You’ve got undergo this and that religious ritual in order to be saved.” “You’ve got to be a member of this Religion in order to be saved.”
On the other hand, Paul says, we can “sow in the Spirit, and we will reap eternal life.” This “sowing” puts our spiritual lives in the hands of the Maker instead of our own. It is an understanding that perhaps God is bigger than we think. Perhaps God works in mysterious ways and not just ways that our tradition or our culture and even our religion has put its rubber stamp on. Sowing in the Spirit might literally be interpreted as throwing seeds in the air. Jesus tells a parable about the master Gardener (That’s gardener with a big G!) spreading seeds in just this fashion. Some seed lands on the rock, some lands on the fertile ground, some lands in the pathway, some lands among the thorns.
Sowing in the Spirit is letting go of our conditions, because God loves us unconditionally. It is letting go of our “rule based” pseudo spirituality, because Jesus loved those who it was “against the rules” to love. It is letting go of our “God-mocking” quest for power and control. Reaping eternal life isn’t just about going to heaven when we die, it is about living life eternally right now!
Eternal life doesn’t begin later. Reaping eternal life means that we are followers of a man who showed us how to live in such a fashion that we are never going to stop living. Jesus sent his followers out to spread the news—“The Kingdom of God has come near.” It is so near that we can grab on to it and get caught up in its movement. If it has come near, that must mean it is going somewhere and has passed by here on its way there.
Do we know how to reach up and grab on? Do we have the courage to do so? I’m not saying that “sowing in the Spirit” is some willy-nilly free for all. Look how Jesus sends his disciples out into the villages to gather the harvest. First of all, he puts things in perspective for us. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” We know we have lots of work to do. We know we cannot afford to become soft and lazy.
Jesus probably felt like many of you who have fields that must be reaped after a month full of rain. I know that as I reflected on this scripture this week, I was thinking about my back yard, which looked like a jungle! The harvest is plentiful, indeed! The workers were few and up to their necks in work! The disciples had a tough row to hoe as well.
Jesus gives his disciples specific instructions: “go out two by two, take no shoes or purse or cloak. Speak to no one on the roads. Stay in one house and eat what they give you.” Jesus has plenty of instructions. But Jesus wants us to know that Kingdom life, that Sowing in the Spirit, that Reaping Eternal Life isn’t a cakewalk. “I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Why?
Because he is taking away their safety net so they don’t rely on the Flesh and instead they rely on the Spirit. He strips them down so they can know God as a provider. Don’t you ever think about how we coddle ourselves to the extent that we might too oversaturated to observe or absorb any miracles? Perhaps you feel this as you are watching your third hour of television of the night and then notice that your son or daughter has stayed home tonight and you could have been spending that time with them. Perhaps we feel this over-saturation when we take a walk down the street and notice all sorts of things that we miss when we are zooming by in our air-conditioned, noise insulating automobiles. Maybe there are miracles all around us, and we miss them because we are too busy providing for ourselves, too busy sowing in the Flesh. Perhaps this is why Jesus instructed his disciples to bring no sandals, no money, and no bag of belongings.
He gives them only the message: “The Kingdom of God has come near.” Paul gives similar encouragement to the Galatians, saying, “We shall reap eternal life, if we do not give up.” “The Kingdom of God has come near.” “Don’t give up.” Do we bring this message into our community? Do we give our neighbors and our families and our friends and our enemies reason to believe that God is doing something new and bold and beautiful? Do we live in a way that this proclamation, “The Kingdom of God has come near,” has any merit or authenticity or validation by the love we show? Paul followed his sowing and reaping comments by saying, “Let us work for the good of all, and especially for the family of faith.”
In the next paragraph, he says “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” Paul Tillich, an influential theologian of the 20th century, said that this is the crux of the whole Christian faith. This is the message of Christianity for the modern world. We bear the proclamation of a new creation. Paul says it elsewhere in 2nd Corinthians, "If anyone is in union with Christ he is a new being; the old state of things has passed away; there is a new state of things."
As new creations, we are more open to the miracles in our presence. Like newborn babies having natural trust in their parents, we can have complete and total trust in our God. We have new eyes to look at the world—we see enemies as brothers and sisters, we see hope in desperate situations.
Perhaps this is what Christ is commissioning us to go out and tell the world—it’s not about the way we do things, its not about the words we use, it’s not about the cultural trappings for which we reserve the most nostalgic corner of our hearts—our faith is about the New Creation that we have become by the power of the New Covenant.
We all live in the old state of things, and the question asked of us by our text is whether we also participate in the new state of things. We belong to the Old Creation, and the demand made upon us by Christianity is that we also participate in the New Creation. We have known ourselves in our old being, and we shall ask whether we also have experienced something of a New Being in ourselves. Can we choose to hold on to that newborn child’s trust in our Savior?
Have we experienced the nearness of the Kingdom? Have we shared that nearness in some way with our neighbor? Have we allowed the reality of the New Creation to become fully apparent in our lives? Have we abandoned sowing in the Flesh? Have we put our trust in God’s provision and daily miracles?
I think John Wesley’s famous covenant prayer gives us that hope and that focus, let us bow and pray,
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put met to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by you or laid aside by you,
enabled for you or brought low by you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rest in Peace Esther.

Esther J. Moore, age 84, of Morris, Oklahoma, passed away on July 2, 2007 in Tulsa’s St. Francis Hospital where she had been battling an unexpected illness since Memorial Day weekend.
Esther was born in Morris on April 3, 1923, to parents John and Leona Foster. She graduated from Morris high School in 1940, and lived in Morris during most of her life.
Esther became interested in piano very early and at the age of 8, she became the pianist and organist for the Morris Christian Church where she also served for many years as a Sunday School teacher. In the 1960’s, she became a faithful choir member of the Morris United Methodist Church, where she also played the piano throughout her life and served as the church's membership secretary for 35 years.
During World War II, Esther worked for Douglas Aircraft in Tulsa where she worked her way from a riveter to an aircraft inspector.
Esther married Richard L. (Dick) Moore in 1946, and devoted her life to making a home for her three daughters and her husband of 53 years. As an accomplished seamstress, she spent countless hours sewing garments ranging from everyday school clothing to elegant formals, coats, and crafts. When there was a creative project to be done, whether it was baking a perfect dish or desert for a school or community project, Esther was one of the best to get the job done.
In the 1960’s, Esther enjoyed being an active member of the Order of the Eastern Star in Morris and she was a long time member of the Dahlia Flower Club. She also worked as the Morris City Librarian during the 1970’s. She was also a very active member of the Morris Senior Citizen’s Center. One of Esther’s most popular activities was extravagantly decorating her home for Halloween and making more than 500 popcorn balls each year to be handed out for trick-or-treat, for more than 35 years.
Esther has been preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Dick Moore, and infant daughter, Peggy Lee Moore. She is survived by three daughters, Phyllis Hudecki and husband Norman of Okmulgee, Beverly Alexander of Perry, and Jody Simpson and her husband Don of Bartlesville; grandchildren are Stacey Herriage, Katie Faulkner, Mindy Faulkner, and Richie Alexander; one brother, Bob Foster of Tulsa, a sister-in-law, Virginia Zimmerman of Tulsa, nieces, nephews, and many wonderful friends.
Services for Esther will be held at the Morris United Methodist Church at 2:00 P.M. Friday, July 6. In tribute to Esther’s love of animals, the family requests memorials be sent to the Washington County SPCA in Bartlesville or the Okmulgee County Animal Shelter. Friends may visit the McClendon-Winters Funeral Home of Morris from 12-8 P.M. on Thursday. Online condolences may be sent at, or you may leave a comment here for the family to see.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Lift Off! With VBS next week.

Beginning Sunday, July 8-12, our church will offer a Vacation Bible School Experience that is sure to "lift your spirits!" Lift Off will focus on following, trusting, listening, repenting and serving God through stories in Genesis and the Gospels. Each of these themes are woven into the imagery of hot air ballooning. If you are between the ages of 3 and adult, there is something at the VBS for you! (There's an adult component too, or you are welcome to help with the kids.) Each night (excluding Sunday) we meet for dinner at 5:30, and go until 8pm. We begin on Sunday night at 6pm. Childcare is provided for workers and for participants in the adult bible study. See you there!

Freedom, Flesh, and Fruit. July 1 Sermon

Leviticus 19: 17-18
Galatians 5: 1, 13-25

This week we celebrate the 231st anniversary of our declaration of freedom from British rule. We celebrate our independence as a nation and as a people. We think of our freedom in many ways—we have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to vote, freedom for the ultimate aim of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We probably do not associate freedom with slavery. Indeed, they are thought of as polar opposites. Yet in today’s reading from Galatians Paul breathes in freedom in one sentence, and then breathes out slavery with a smile.
We have spent the past couple weeks reflecting on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In this letter, arguably the first letter of Paul’s and thus the oldest book in the New Testament, Paul confronts opponents in the mission field to the Gentiles who want to subscribe Gentile converts to Judaism before becoming Christians. Paul rejects this effort because he sees it undermining the power of the witness, death, and resurrection of Christ. In today’s lesson, he concludes previous chapters of argument with the dramatic words, “For freedom Christ has set you free! Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Paul equates submission to the law code and the cultural practices of Judaism with slavery to a system that has been abolished by the power of Christ. He insists that the Greek Galatians are claimed and adopted by God simply and perfectly by the sacrificial faith of Jesus Christ.
Paul focuses on the freedom of Christians throughout the book of Galatians, and in this passage speaks specifically about freedom as a pathway, one that we “walk” and “keep in step with” the Spirit, or one which we diverge from if we find ourselves living in self centered or divisive ways.
It is as if the freedom road on which he guides the recipients of this letter has some very dangerous offshoots, and Paul is assuring us that while the rival missionaries believe that the Law is the only map for humans to stay on course, Paul believes that the Holy Spirit is the uniquely adequate and essential guide along the path of freedom.
Paul’s antidote to slavery is freedom found in Christ. And Paul’s antidote to excessive behavior that he fears would result from this freedom is slavery to one another. It is as if Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “and if any of these freedoms that we find self evident in humanity should infringe on the good of all, then we declare that we have strayed from the hallowed path of freedom and should seek the binds that draw us again to one another as a society.”
Rev. Timothy Downs writes in a sermon called “Jesus Means Freedom, “Now, in Galatia, Paul makes it clear-by God's grace we are free, but it's an interesting kind of freedom, a freedom that is not just, "Okay I can do anything I please." It is a freedom that leads to more questions. Here is another easy answer to what it means to be saved. St. Augustine once said, "Love God and do as you please." Is that easy or is it complex? Our freedom in faith is framed by a covenant, by a love of God. Freedom is not license.”
He continues, “It is freedom to act within the context of a relationship with God, a relationship of love. Paul reminds the people of Galatia that we are called to respond to a loving and graceful God by loving our neighbor as ourselves. That means that we are to show esteem for our neighbors and ourselves.
We are to desire to help our neighbor. We are free not simply to be at liberty, but we are free to be more freely loving; and if we are more freely loving, we will be a people who seek a more just and supportive society in which people, to use Paul's words, "no longer bite and devour one another."

The message of v. 13, then, is, “Do not allow freedom to become a base of operations for the hostile power of the Flesh.” How? By becoming “slaves to one another.” If the way to keep Flesh from gaining a base of operations is through loving, mutual service, this suggests that the power of Flesh will try to manifest itself through pride, rivalry, and autonomy.
The Spirit, on the other hand, manifests itself in community in what Paul refers to as fruit. Fruit cannot be humanly manufactured; it can grow only organically, as God gives the growth—in this case, through the life-giving energy of the Spirit
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control." These are not laws for behavior, but these are the characteristics of those who in their freedom are open and responsive to the creative spirit of God. There is no law but freedom. But that freedom is framed by a context, by a covenant of mutuality and of love.
When we find our community of faith bearing these fruit, we can be assured that we are living lives in accord with the Spirit. If we instead find other things coming out of our community, we have perhaps become a fortress of the Flesh.
God strengthens us in the fruit of the Spirit through this meal that we come together to celebrate this morning. Through the fruit of the vine and the wheat of the fields, God imparts the Holy Spirit unto our existence. We pray that the Spirit brings us unity to be “one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.”
John Wesley mentions in his notes on these verses that “Works are mentioned in the plural because they are distinct from, and often inconsistent with, each other.”
I would add to Wesley’s observation that the Works of the flesh are not only sometimes inconsistent with each other, but they also tear us apart from one another. We shouldn’t hear the word “flesh” and think that Paul is referring solely to sexual sins. His concentration is instead more on the particular works of the flesh that cause division in the community: enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy. Wesley pictures for us these works of the Flesh nailed upon the cross in reference to Paul’s words in v. 24 “Nailed it, as it were, to a cross whence it has no power to break loose, but is continually weaker and weaker.” All of these poisons inhibit us from the greatest law, which both Paul and Jesus locate for us in Leviticus: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
In this, the “higher law,” the “temple” of our faith, we are drawn closer together, we are bound as one. Wesley also notes that "the fruit of the Spirit" is mentioned in the singular, ver. 22, as being all consistent and connected together.” Likewise, these gifts and virtues are not only interconnected and flow out of one another, but they usher in unity and harmony among those whom they come to fruition.
So, may we walk by the Spirit. May we be guided along the path of love and righteousness. May our lives bear fruit for the kingdom of God. May we offer tangible and nourishing expression of the Spirit’s activity in our lives by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service. And by the Holy Spirit’s power through this meal we are about to share, may we be one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.