I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve really been in a state of “weather confusion” for the last week or so. This is winter, right? The mild weather is nice but I thought we were supposed to get chilly days and RAIN first, not warm weather and no rain. To confuse me further, I go outside and bees buzz around me and mosquitoes try to bite me! Come on Mother Nature, all I want is for us to get a fair share of rain and a few more cool days before summer. I didn’t mention spring because I haven’t seen that season in a while. Okay, Okay, I do respect Mother Nature so I’ll stay confused, but I’ll kept wishing and hoping and praying for cool days and rain. Pictured above is Vondell Jordan with Wesley Trevino, Dakota Dyess, Ashlyn Gleghorn, Jordan Dyess, James Gleghorn, Michael Gleghorn, Christian Dyess, and Brooklyn Gleghorn. Vondell’s Sunday School class is one of the two new Sunday School classes for the children that attend Art UMC. Grades 1 and up have been involved in a series of lessons that explain the special activities in our worship services. Under the guidance of an adult shepherd, they then participate in the worship service as acolytes, ushers, or readers. The other Sunday School class is for kindergarten and below, which includes a Bible lesson, art project, and play time. In the months to come, some of the age groups will be rotated for a new series from the One Room Sunday School Curriculum. Special thanks to our Sunday School teachers and to all who provide the wonderful snacks. Our Children’s and Adult’s Sunday School classes start at 10:00am in the Fellowship Hall. Our worship service is at 11:00am which includes a children’s sermon. We invite and welcome you and your children to our Sunday School and Worship services.There will be a Finance Committee meeting on Wed. Jan.25th at 5pm and the Men’s Choir practice at 6pm. We will not be having our Revelation Bible Study this Wednesday. Please continue to pray for Maribelle Hoerster as she recovers from surgery. Our prayers go out for the recovery of Jonathan Burgess of Menard and for the entire Menard community, as they have recently suffered great losses. Prayers were asked for Carolyn Vader’s granddaughters, as they recently lost their grandfather. We pray also for Pearl Liefeste and her family as Pearl will be returning to the nursing home. Please continue prayers for our other homebound and nursing home residents, Dick Pierson, Anna Grace Durst, Etta Marie Mutschink, and Johnita Bohmfalk. The well being and safety of our servicemen and women are always part of our prayer requests. We thank Amanda Adams, Taylor Slocun, Josh Calhoun, Matt Krause, Stuart Jordan and Kyle Pierce for their service to our country.Those celebrating birthdays will be Matt Jordan and Scott Ceynowa on the 26th, and Lena Slocum on the 28th. Jeff and Judy Kingston will be celebrating their anniversary on the 27th. We wish you all much happiness on your special day and throughout the year.Christian Dyess and James Gleghorn served as acolytes for our Sunday worship, which was the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany. Wesley Trevino and Michael Gleghorn served as ushers. Special thanks to our dedicated musicians, Maria Mutis, Jan Jordan, and Nancy Jordan. Vondell Jordan and Michael Gleghorn read our First Reading which was taken from Jonah 3: 1-5, 10. Epiphany comes from the Greek word “manifestation”, which means “to show, indicate, or put beyond doubt”. We observe the Epiphany on Jan. 6th commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi (Three Kings). Simply put by Pastor Cliff, it means that Jesus had come for the WHOLE world, not just or exclusively for Israel. As a child I remember we never took our Christmas tree down until after the 6th of January. I couldn’t wait until we could finally add the three kings to our manger scene. I figured they were late for Jesus’ birthday because they felt it was important to go all over the WHOLE world first and let everyone know they were invited to the birthday party. Funny how sometimes our childhood biblical teachings stick with us and can turn out to be the real deal. Rev. Margaret Persky says that children, with their vivid imaginations, really do learn about God through stories, pictures and symbols. Rev. Persky will be doing a special Chapel Service for the children at the end of January.Pastor Cliff reminded us that the Bible stories we have been reading these past few weeks are about how God calls each of us to share that Good News of the Epiphany….that God loves ALL PEOPLE….ALL PEOPLE. Sunday’s First Reading and Gospel was more about the “human response” to God’s call, rather than why God calls us. Now, let’s get back to the First Reading which talks about Jonah. We recall that God was disturbed by the wickedness and sinfulness going on in the great city of Nineveh, so He told Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn them of God’s impending judgment. Jonah didn’t like the people of Nineveh and he didn’t want to give them God’s warning, so he disobeyed God, and jumped on a ship that was going the opposite direction of Nineveh. God knew what Jonah did and He sent a great storm that made the boat start to sink. Jonah told the frightened people on board that God had sent the storm because he ran away from Him. He told them that for the storm to stop, they would have to throw him overboard. They did just that and the sea became calm. Now Jonah is in the sea, still on the run from God (do we ever run from God?) but God arranged for a great fish to swallow him. Jonah prayed to God from inside the fish, thanking Him for His blessings and asking for forgiveness. Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights before God had the fish spit him up on shore. Stinky, stinky! God told Jonah a second time to go and deliver His message to Nineveh. This time he obeyed God. When Jonah shouted God’s message that their city would be destroyed in forty days, the crowds believed him. The entire city, including the king, declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. God was pleased with them and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened. God’s change of plans upset Jonah. He was angry that God would have compassion on an enemy of Israel like the Gentiles of Nineveh. He was so angry that he wanted to die. He felt God’s mercy to the Ninevites meant the end of God’s favor for Israel. Jonah left and went to the east side of the city, made a shelter, waited and still hoped Nineveh would be destroyed. To ease the discomfort of the still defiant Jonah, God arranged for a leafy vine to shade him. To get Jonah’s attention, the next day God sent a worm to eat up the leafy vine and a hot scorching wind. The sun was so hot and again Jonah wished to die. When God asked Jonah if it was right for him to be angry when the plant died, Jonah’s answer was “yes, even enough to die!” Oh poor Jonah, he’s still in his comfort zone and made it all about “him” again. Verse 10: The Lord said, “You have been worried about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight, but Nineveh has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left (meaning their values were fleeting) and many cattle as well.” Should I not be concerned about that great city?” The Gospel Reading was Mark 1: 14-20. These were the first words we hear Jesus speak in the book of Mark. “The time has come and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news. “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The message comes full circle. The story of Jonah is not about the fish/whale. It’s about God’s relentless pursuit of us, even when we run from Him. His efforts to save the lost, the sinners, and the outsiders (Ninevites of today). We must caution limiting God’s grace from anyone. This might happen when we make it about “us”. So, Pastor Cliff asked us, “Why does it matter that we heard the call story of Jonah. He says, “It matters, because we are ALL called.” He reminded us that North America is on the verge of the most stunning collapse of churches in the history of the country. Could it be that some churches may be more concerned with their leafy plant rather than the Ninevites?