“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…”
- Hebrews 10:24-25a
It’s getting that time of the year where our church schedule seems to be packed more than ever. But shouldn’t it be that way? We are wrapping up our church year and getting ready to prepare to welcome the season of Advent leading up to the celebration of the birth of the Christ child. And the joy and anticipation for Christmas we should feel this time of year should be contagious throughout our church. So much so that we should be making plans to be here for every event starting December 3, which is the first Sunday of the Advent season.
And for the Advent season, I will be preaching a sermon series called “The Redemption of Scrooge,” based on a book by Rev. Matt Rawle, a UM pastor from Louisiana. The book is based on the Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol.” We will look at the Christmas Eve night where Ebenezer Scrooge encountered the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come and seek to apply the lessons Scrooge learned that night to our own lives on how we can live with and love for others as followers of Jesus.
With all of this going on, there is no better time than to invite your family, friends, and others to come to Salem and see what God is doing here, for us and through us. I can’t wait to see where God is taking us together in our first Advent and Christmas season together.
I hate to be the bearer of bad new, but as your pastor, I must tell you this: There are less than 3 months until Christmas. I know it may be a shock to you and let’s face it, mid-to-upper eighty degree temperatures do not help the thought that Christmas is coming. So, if Christmas is coming, what is there for us to do? Simple, let’s have some fun! We have several community events set for the month of October and we will need your help, prayers, and support.
The first event takes place the first week of October, our Fall Barbecue. We will start on Friday, October 6, by getting everything ready here at the church. There will be food to prep for the Brunswick Stew along with cleanup and putting everything in position for Saturday’s early start on October 7. Then Saturday morning, we will need all hands on deck. There will be chicken to be de-boned and pork to be pulled and chopped. And the to-go plates will need to be organized before the food can be placed in them so they can be separated into delivery orders. We will also need some delivery drivers to take the orders which were pre-sold over the past couple of weeks.
Then the fun starts! We will be selling plates, BBQ pork, and Brunswick stew from 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. The prices are $10 for a quart of Stew (limit of 2), $10 for a pound of pork, and $8 for a plate which includes chopped pork, stew, slaw, pickles, bread, chips and tea. Please invite your friends and family to enjoy some great food and the wonderful fellowship of our church.
Our next community event starts on Saturday, October 14, about 1PM with the delivery of our pumpkins. Again, we will need all hands on deck as we unload, separate, and set up the pumpkins to be sold to the public starting that day. The hours will be Monday through Friday — 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m, Saturday — 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., and Sunday — 12:30-7 p.m.. Ginger Bloodworth is organizing the time slots to volunteer, so please be generous with your time to help raise funds for our church.
Finally, our last community event, Trunk or Treat, takes place on, Saturday, October 28, from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Please come and enjoy the fun and fellowship as we set up our cars and trucks to pass out candy to the children of our community. Please feel free to decorate your vehicle any way you want and remember it doesn’t have to be scary. A couple of ideas could be decorating with your favorite sport team colors, TV and movie show themes, etc… Have some fun with it and bring plenty of candy! Let’s make this one of the biggest Trunk or Treats yet!
And while you are here at any of our October events, please remember to bring your biggest Salem smile and be ready to share some of the great Salem hospitality with our community!
Above all, let them see Jesus in your words and in your actions. As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Jesus Christ is indeed the only true hope for our world!
Question for you: Have you ever seen the face of an angel? I think I may have several times today. It’s Monday and it looks like it may be a long Monday at that. Beyond the normal Monday activities and e-mail to handle, I was kept busy with phone calls and other things to check off my To-Do-List. The morning went by fairly quick but when I got back from lunch, things changed.
When I got back from lunch, I got ready for our weekly staff meeting. After the meeting was done, I received the second of four visits from individuals who needed assistance with their utilities. The woman was 45 minutes early for her appointment with me and I had wanted to get a few things done before her and the other two people came for their assistance. Anyway, I decided to go ahead and help her. She entered my office and began to ask me numerous questions about our church, where she could get additional help, etc… I didn’t think she was going to stop talking. Anyway as she handed me her paperwork, she asked me if the church had an extra-large print Bible to give her. When she asked the question, I “knew” she was just making small talk with me until I gave her the check she needed, or at least, that’s what I thought.
I finally got everything done for the woman and handed back her paperwork along with the check she needed. She then asked me again if the church had a large print Bible for her to have. After checking with Annette to see if the church had one, I remembered I had one on my shelf that I didn’t use anymore. I wish all of you could have seen the woman smile after I handed her the Bible.
Shortly after she left, the next person needing help showed up. The gentleman was genuinely excited. The reason was that he had found full-time work earlier that day so he knew he would be back on his feet again soon. The gentleman praised God when he left and told me he would be back sometime to pay back what he could so we could pass it on to the next person.
And then final person came. She was a young woman of 30 years of age. She appeared to be embarrassed having to be in a church asking for help with her bills. As she handed me her license, I noticed her birthday was two weeks away. When I commented on that to her, her face lit up with a big smile and thanked me. As I handed her the check for her assistance, she asked me if she could take a couple of Tootsie Roll pops from the bucket on my desk for her kids in the car. I told her sure and to get one for the birthday girl too. She again smiled, took the three Pops and went on her way.
Later as I was cleaning up my desk to leave, I thought about the four people who had visited me that day seeking assistance. As I was thinking about them, Hebrews 13:2, came to mind, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
It was a sobering reminder for me and I pray for all of us, each and every time someone approaches us for some form of help individually or as a church, we will always offer hospitality and the Love and Grace of Christ. We should offer nothing less than what God has shown us.
What’s your favorite place to pray? UMC.org, A United Methodist website, asked their readers where their favorite places were to pray. Some loved to pray while out in nature, being in and surrounded by God’s creation. Others mentioned that their places of prayer were wherever they could be active; from walks or runs in their neighborhoods to mowing their grass. The one favorite that caught my attention was that people like to pray while they drive back and forth to work. I have trouble enough paying attention to how I (and others) are driving, let alone adding one more thing for me to do with all of the craziness taking place in and around me.
At my previous appointment, my favorite place to pray was walking the halls of the church and praying for those people and those things that weighed upon my heart. I primarily did this first thing in the morning before the busyness of the day and the business of the church started. Depending on my day and/or any distractions that might come along, the overall time I spent in prayer varied from day to day. Since coming to Salem, I have tried to develop the same rhythm here but have had very little success. This makes me wonder if God is calling me to new ways to pray and/or new places to pray.
During our staff meeting this week, Pastor Carol asked me if I would be available to go with her that evening to West Newton Elementary School to pray for the school. Knowing that my evening was free, I told Carol I would be glad to meet her there. When we arrived, we were greeted by one of our church members and by the principal.
The principal asked how we would like to pray for the school, and Carol mentioned that she would like to go into each of the classrooms and pray for both the teachers and the students. I loved her idea and agreed that would be something I would like to do, too. The principal approved of Carol’s plan, and after praying for him for the upcoming year, Carol and I went on our way. We divided up the classrooms and began our prayer quest.
To say I was blessed by this opportunity to pray would be a vast understatement. Almost all of my classrooms were unlocked and I was able to stand among the desks and pray for the teachers and students. What a joy and honor it was for me to offer prayers for the teachers and students of our community. And I may have found a new place to pray. Who knows? It just might become one of my new favorite places to pray.
In Christ’s Love and Service, Dan
“I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all of my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”
— Philippians 1:3-4
What a wonderful first week Brenda and I have had here as your pastoral couple at Salem. You all have welcomed and blessed us both more than you will ever know. From the sign out front welcoming us, to “friending” us on Facebook, to the many gifts and cards we have received, and the many hugs and affirming words you have offered us, we have felt loved and welcomed. Brenda and I want to offer our heartfelt thanks for all you have done to make us feel at home here at Salem.
The scripture above is a verse I have come to treasure over the years. Throughout my 17 years of ministry, people from all parts of my life have found ways to bless me either professionally or personally. When those times take place, I strive to fall back on the verse above as a reminder to thank God for them and their service and to remind me of the opportunity to also thank them personally in some way. Depending on the depth of the gift, I will thank them by conversation either directly in person or over the phone. I will also drop them a note in the mail sometimes or offer some small token of thanks too.
What about you? How do you thank the people in your lives for the things they do for you and/or your loved ones? For that matter, when was the last time you told someone how thankful you were for them being in and/or a part of your lives? Saying thank you to them can be an important way to show your thanks to someone but sometimes I think we say “thank you” as a reflex action instead of a thankful action. We go through the motion of saying “thank you” but there is nothing attached to what we have said to show the other person of how sincere we are for their help or support.
I would like to challenge all of us in the coming weeks to reflect on the people who have touched our lives whether it has been recently or sometime ago. When they cross your mind, make yourself a note of some sort to find a way to thank them for what they have done or for what they have meant to you. And when you are done with thanking them, offer God a prayer of thanks for the gift of them in your life.
In Christ’s Love and Service,