We are extremely pleased to welcome Michael and Doreen Murphy as members of Art UMC. They are a great addition to our congregation.
Birthdays this week are Ruby Toeppich today on Jan. 22nd, Diana Head on Jan. 23rd, and Abbigall Meredith on Jan. 27th. Also, Josh and Lorien Calhoun will celebrate their anniversary on Jan. 25th.
The Prayer room at the Food Bank in Mason is open Tuesday 3 – 5 p.m.
There is a Trustee’s meeting Wednesday, January 22nd at 6.30 p.m. All those who can help build the ramp are invited to attend.
Pastor Cliff and John Jordan, Lay Delegate Art UMC and JoAnn McDougall, Lay Delegate Trinity UMC will attend a special joint annual conference session with both the Río Grande and Southwest Texas Conferences to vote on a beginning plan of organization for the new unified conference.
There is a mission trip to MISION de CANDELILLA in the boquillos in the Chihuahuan Desert February 19th – 23rd. You must have a passport to attend. We will repair medical clinics and hold Vacation Bible School. The Gideons are supplying English – Spanish New Testaments.
There is TDCJ training in Fredericksburg, Saturday, February 15th, 1-4 p.m., at St. Mary’s. Completing the training will enable you to volunteer but does not obligate you to do so. It was Jesus who said: “I was in prison and you visited me.”
These are the words of Pastor Cliff on the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany. The first reading is Isaiah 49:1-7 and the Gospel lesson was from John 1:29-42.
At Art UMC and Trinity UMC in Castell, we are exercising the spiritual practice of renewing our baptism vows. Being a member of a church and being in community and unity with other followers require a commitment. All churches, it seems, are made up of sinners. Sometimes our sin is when we get focused on our needs and our wants rather than reaching the lost. Sometimes we need to back up, take a look at how we are living as a baptized member of the church, and re-commit ourselves.
To be a member of a church, to be a follower of Jesus, we have to move beyond our personal needs and wants. Don’t take my word for it, it was Jesus who said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24) Oswald Chambers wrote this about that verse: Individuality must go in order that a believer be brought into fellowship with God. The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-assertiveness. It is the continual assertion of individuality that hinders our spiritual life more than anything else.
For example, if you say, I cannot do that or I don’t prefer that, it is because individuality is in the road. Sometimes when we don’t get our way, we get our feelings hurt, and we give folks the silent treatment. Or we quit going to church. We isolate from all those sinners in church. The Holy Spirit can help us become aware that the “I” in us is in the way of God’s will. Jesus said: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (Matthew 5:23-24) Worship of God is the most important priority in the Bible. However, Jesus says if you are in worship, and you are not reconciled, LEAVE worship, and go make peace with whoever the Lord has put on your heart. Oswald writes further: The thing in you that will not be reconciled to your brother or sister or neighbor or enemy, is your individuality. God wants to bless us with abundant life, but unless you are willing to give up your selfishness, God cannot. The excuses of “I can’t” or “I won’t” or “I don’t like” or “I will never”, limits the grace of God. Don’t take my word for it, Jesus said: If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)
I invite you to pray about your baptism vows, and ask God: where am I not committed? Where am I getting in the way of what you have planned? Jesus prayed this way: not my will, but thy will be done. Despite our broken-ness, God intends to use “us” to be the Epiphany. God calls us to be the incarnation. God calls all of us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world. God calls us to see the world with eyes filled with grace. The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. God calls us to love, and not be indifferent to the least, the lost, the stranger, or our neighbor.
I invite you to dig deep. Pray hard. Listen well. And I would invite you to write it down. I would invite you to share your new baptism vows with someone you love and trust. I invite you to tell them: here is how I intend to follow Jesus this year. These are my new baptism vows I have made with God. Help me stay accountable. Jesus must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3:30)