Yokes and Burdens | Proper 9

Worship Video

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

16 “To what will I compare this generation? It is like a child sitting in the marketplaces calling out to others, 17 ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 Yet the Human One came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by her works.”

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have shown them to babies. 26 Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness.

27 “My Father has handed all things over to me. No one knows the Son except the Father. And nobody knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. 30 My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” (CEB)

Yokes and Burdens

Back in 2005 or 2006, my wife was convinced that we needed to take ballroom dance lessons together. I don’t recall that I was as convinced as she was, but I agreed to give it a go. So, she signed us up through Miami University of Ohio, and we drove over to Oxford for our dance lessons. The dances we would learn in this beginner class were swing, waltz, and rumba.

I remember that one of the first things our instructor said after arranging us all in our starting positions is that men always start the dance with their left foot. Women always start the dance with the opposite foot. Which of course means that, even when it comes to dancing, women are always right.

In those early lessons, we were only concerned with counting the beats of the music, in various ways, and trying to keep our steps and movements coordinated. For waltz, it was one-two-three, one-two-three. For East Coast Swing, it was step-step-rockstep, step-step-rockstep. Rumba was similar to waltz, with three steps but four beats, so it was slow, quick-quick slow quick-quick. It wasn’t always easy. In those first classes, I had plenty of missteps.

But, by the end of the class, when we had a big dance party as our final exam, we didn’t have to count the beat out, or pay attention to where our feet were at each moment. By then, I was comfortable with myself and confident enough that Joy and I could simply lose ourselves in the music and dance.

John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth were both, sent from God, yet they danced, so to speak, to very different tunes. Even within first century Judaism, John would have been considered old-school. John was the prophet who survived on a diet of insects and wild honey in the wide-open wilderness. John chose to wear clothes of camel’s hair and a leather belt, which would have been scratchy and uncomfortable. John could be rather scathing in his address to those who came to hear him preach, even calling Pharisees and Sadducees “children of snakes.” His message was often one of God’s judgment and wrath: “The axe is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire” (Matthew 3:10 CEB). John’s signature sermon in Matthew 3 was about angry judgment, changing our hearts and lives, producing good fruit—sifting, gathering, and burning with fire that can’t be put out.

Jesus, on the other hand, was the teacher who dined at many tables—some fine, some ordinary—with all manner of company—some with upstanding reputations, some with reputations that no one in this room would want. Jesus was the one who used his divine power to produce 80 or so gallons of particularly fine wine so the festivities at a wedding could continue (c.f. John 2:1-11). Jesus began his signature sermon in Matthew 5 with a congratulatory tone by saying, “Happy are people who….”

Jesus, himself, recognized how different he and John were, yet also how alike they were in rejection. Those who rejected John and Jesus are compared to children in a market place who keep changing the rules of their game, or changing the tune of their song, then complaining that the John and Jesus weren’t dancing the way they wanted them to dance.

John, in all of his stern severity, wouldn’t lighten up and dance to the children’s flute. They thought John was a little too demanding; a lot too hellfire and brimstone for their taste. They tried to change John’s tune to something with a little more pep to it. But stubborn old-school John refused to pretend everything was okay: as if God won’t judge us by the fruit our lives have produced. So, those who were offended by John dismissed him by saying he had a demon.

Jesus came eating, drinking, and celebrating; essentially dancing to the very tune the people wanted John to dance to. But they thought Jesus’ message of God’s love and God’s acceptance of people who were clearly beyond salvation was unreasonable. Jesus, in his excessive inclusiveness, refused to mourn when the children tried to change his tune to something a little more palatable. Nothing tones down exuberance like a funeral dirge. They insisted the dance must cease, that Jesus must fall in line with their music.

It’s like that scene in the movie, Strictly Ballroom, when Dance Federation President Barry Fife responds to rumors of new dance moves by declaring, “There are no new steps.” All dance moves had to meet the established guidelines, and anything else would earn a quick disqualification. But Jesus came to lead us in a party dance like we’ve never imagined in celebration of God’s extravagant salvation. Jesus danced new steps to an ancient music. Yet, Jesus was a little much in some people’s opinion. Too irrational. Too out of step with how the world really is. So, those who were offended by Jesus dismissed him by calling him a glutton and a drunkard.

In a tone similar to John’s demand that his hearers produce fruit that shows they’ve changed their hearts and lives (c.f. Matthew 3:8), Jesus says that wisdom is proved to be right her works. Our deeds, our speech, our actions in life matter. That’s not always comfortable to hear. It’s much easier to digest the idea that if we only believe certain things, or ascent to certain ideologies, or—in the case of some of John and Jesus’ detractors—claim a certain genealogy. That God would demand real change in our thoughts about others and our behavior toward others is… well, that will actually take some work.

The prayer of Jesus beginning in verse 25 reminds us that Jesus is the full revelation of God. It also suggests something odd about the way God does things. Sometimes it’s the infants of the world, those deprived of power, the innocent hearts and naïve souls who somehow understand the ways of God better than the wise, learned, and powerful. God always stands unconditionally on the side of the lowly.

This is a truth which Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew to the depths of her soul, though she was not one of the educated, pillars of wisdom in Nazareth. Yet, she was able to sing the deepest truth about God, “He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed “ (Luke 1:50-53 CEB).

Maybe God works this way because the lowly and the have-nots already understand something about humility. Maybe it’s the worldview of the powerful and the haves that runs contrary to the tune God sang at the founding of creation. Maybe the teaching of Jesus enables us to see the way things really are: that the world really was crafted with love as its first ingredient and forgiveness as both an expression and proof of that love.

There’s also something paradoxical in the yoke and burden Jesus mentions. A yoke implies work. Animals are yoked so the plow driver can keep them on a straight line and ensure the furrows don’t wander all over the place. So, how can Jesus claim that his work is easy, especially after preaching the incredibly difficult lessons in the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus even said, “…the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it” (Matthew 7:14 CEB).

Becoming a disciple of Jesus begins in at least as much discomfort as learning to dance to the music that is played. The teachings of Jesus are difficult. Anyone who thinks the teachings of Jesus aren’t difficult obviously hasn’t bothered to read what Jesus taught. His teachings run counter to what our culture declares.

Nothing of what Jesus teaches comes to us naturally. Jesus taught that we should love our enemies. See how popular that turns out when your homeland has been occupied and annexed by an empire. It’s not natural. We have to learn. We have to work at those lessons, which always require us to change something within ourselves. Repentance—changing our heart and mind—is difficult work. Forgiving those who have hurt and wronged us is hard work. Loving people we’ve been taught our whole lives to despise is challenging work.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay” (Mere Christianity, Touchstone: New York, NY, p39).

Learning the ways of God begins as a burden that, quite surprisingly, morphs into the gift of rest and comfort. The more we work at it, the lighter the burden feels until it no longer feels like a burden at all. Eventually, it feels less like work and more like the way this world ought to work.

It’s kind of like learning to dance. The more you work at it, the easier it comes. Before long, you can recognize what dance goes with what song, even within the first few notes of the music. You learn that can’t waltz to Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing (with A Swing), or swing to John Altman’s Under The Bridges of Paris. It takes practice but, eventually, you’re able to simply lose yourself in the music and join in the dance. What began with difficulty becomes a part of you, and you a part of it.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Rev. Christopher Millay

Welcome | Proper 8

Worship Video

 

Matthew 10:40-42

40 “Those who receive you are also receiving me, and those who receive me are receiving the one who sent me. 41 Those who receive a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Those who receive a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 I assure you that everybody who gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because they are my disciples will certainly be rewarded.” (CEB)

Welcome

It is not lost on me that our preaching text today is about receiving or welcoming others when this is our first Sunday worshipping together in person in sixteen weeks. Sixteen weeks is a long time to be apart, and I am grateful that we have found ways to be the church to each other even when we couldn’t gather as we all would have liked.

These are the last few words of Jesus’ missionary discourse where he sent out the apostles like sheep among wolves (10:16), without money, without a backpack, without extra clothes, or so much as a walking stick (10:9-10). Jesus was talking about those who will potentially receive the apostles on their missionary journey. If we take these words strictly as-is, should the apostles arrive at your door, then make sure you receive them well. Then again, if the apostle’s show up at your door, then the Day of Resurrection is likely upon us and the Heavens are about to break loose.

We know from the context that Jesus is talking about hospitality, but interpreting verse 41 and 42 is a bit of a pain. It begs many questions about meaning and translation. Different translations render the Greek text in different ways. For example, the Common English Bible, which we use, says, “Those who receive a prophet as a prophet…” and “Those who receive a righteous person as a righteous person…” will receive the appropriate reward (c.f. Matthew 10:41 CEB).

The literal rendering of the Greek says that whoever receives a prophet or a righteous person in the name of those things will receive the proper reward. It could also mean because. Whoever welcomes a prophet or a righteous person simply because they are those things will receive the appropriate reward.

But what that means—how we’re supposed to understand this—is unclear. The reward in question isn’t clear either. It simply means proper payment for work or some deed that has been done. It can actually refer to either a reward or a punishment depending on that work or deed. It’s essentially getting what you deserve.

And, what is the reward? When is it given? Is it something in the future like heavenly treasures, or is it a more immediate reward, like when my children get a sucker after visiting the doctor’s office? (I often get a sucker, too, because you’re never too old for a Dum Dums pop).

There’s also the question about what’s meant by a righteous person and a prophet, especially in regard to the sending of the apostles. Do these labels, prophet and righteous person, apply to the apostles only or might they refer to others? And, who are the little ones?

Some suggest these little ones is a reference to the apostles because it’s a part of the Missionary Discourse. And that may well be the case. But I think it’s also important to recognize a connection to the other uses of this designation in Matthew’s Gospel, including the least of these in the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Matthew 25:31-46). In that sense, these little ones likely points to everyone we might encounter, especially the poor, marginalized, and powerless. The apostles, themselves, would not have held a particularly high social or religious standing except, perhaps, within the fledgling early church. They were just fishermen, a tax collector, and other everyday people.

On top of all these interpretive questions and difficulties, there’s also the problem that, as the readers of the text, we can’t really pin down our point of view. We might be the apostles who are being sent out. We might also be the ones to whom the apostles are sent. We seem to be the ones called to give a cup of water to the little ones. Yet, we might also be the little ones to whom the refreshing water is given.

For only being three verses, this passage brings up a lot of questions, and I know I’ve raised a lot of them. Probably too many for one sermon.

Despite all these questions, I believe there is something incredibly—profoundly—relevant for us to get from this. Because, even if these words of Jesus were meant specifically for the apostles in that moment of being sent out, the Gospel of Matthew, itself, was written for us. It was written for those of us who would read it later and learn the teaching of Jesus through its stories. So, here’s what I suggest.

First, I think it’s best if we recognize that the “littles ones” point to both the apostles and the marginalized. That’s what Jesus taught and it’s what Jesus did by example. Jesus welcomed everyone. Jesus was always inviting, receiving, and welcoming people, from religious big-wigs to prostitutes on the street. We are expected to show the same example of welcome to the same kinds of people, no matter who they are, where they’re from, how their past is complicated, what language they speak, or what they look like.

The hospitality which Jesus expected these little ones to receive was an extension of the hospitality that is rooted in God’s very nature. God is love. God is the very definition of welcome. God’s welcoming love surrounds us whether anyone else thinks we’re worthy of it or not, whether anyone would deem us righteous or not, whether anyone would consider us religious or not.

God is the one who hosts us every day. Everything we can see, touch, smell, feel, and taste belongs to God. Even the stuff we can’t sense was created by God. We are the recipients of God’s immense hospitality, and we have the immense privilege to show God how grateful we are by providing God-level hospitality and welcome to others no matter who they are, what their story is, or where they come from.

We see this throughout the Old Testament law, prophets, and writings. God commands God’s people to show hospitality and welcome to others. I know I’ve mentioned a few of these verses before, but I’ll mention them again. Exodus 22:21 says, “Don’t mistreat or oppress an immigrant, because you were once immigrants in the land of Egypt” (CEB). God’s requirements here are pretty straightforward. Don’t mistreat or oppress people who are different from us.

Then, Leviticus 19:34 gets more specific. It says: “Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God” (CEB). In fact, twice in Leviticus 19, God tells the people, “you must love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18 CEB). Love must be the primary characteristic of the Christian because love is the primary characteristic of our God.

The call to love our neighbor is taken up three times in Matthew’s Gospel. The first is in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete” (Matthew 5:43-48 CEB). Love your neighbor is also mentioned in Matthew chapters 19 and 22, by the way.

If “these little ones” in Matthew 10 are connected to “the least of these” in Matthew 25, then Jesus means to tells us that giving a cup of cold water to a little one—showing mercy and compassion to the least among us—results in the highest reward. If you go and read Matthew 25, you’ll see that’s exactly what happens. The rewards there are “good things” and inheriting the kingdom that God has prepared for us.

Our responsibility to God and our command from God—maybe we could call it our job—is to love others. We’re even required to do the difficult work of loving those whom we consider our enemies! In one of Jesus’ parables that describes the matter of receiving others, Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a net that people cast into the sea to gather all kinds of fish. They hauled the catch ashore and started to separate the good fish from the bad fish. Then, he says it will be like that at the end of the present age. The angels will separate the good from the bad. Not us. We, the church, are the net. We’re to fling our arms open wide to receive and welcome anyone and everyone we can. If there’s any separating or sorting that needs doing, God will take care of that part. We don’t get to do it ourselves (c.f. Matthew 13:47-50).

If God’s hospitality is offered to everyone—even us—without limitation, then our hospitality should be, too. When it comes to welcoming prophets or righteous people, we can’t tell who they are by looking at them. Our call is to receive and welcome people with simple, basic acts of kindness. With each opportunity that presents itself, God invites us to extend genuine hospitality to a world that desperately needs all the love and compassion it can get. This kind of compassionate welcome is how we approach one another—and those who are not yet a part of our congregation—through the love of God.

When we put the grace-filled hospitality of God’s love at the center of our lives and our relationships—even the difficult relationships—we are living into God’s expectations of discipleship. When we do that, when we live into receiving others and showing hospitality—even something as insignificant as offering a cup of cold water to one who needs it—we are often the ones who feel rewarded by the experience.

“Those who receive you are also receiving me, and those who receive me are receiving the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40 CEB). When we show hospitality and welcome, when we receive others, we are hosting Christ Jesus and the One who sent him into the world for our sake. It’s a significant responsibility. And, it’s very much a privilege of discipleship.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Rev. Christopher Millay

Friday Update, 26 June 2020

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord!

I hope you are as excited as I am about returning to in-person worship this Sunday, June 28! I’ve been busy getting the sanctuary prepared for you. So, I wanted to send out a reminder of what’s required for our gathering together again. Please note that these are requirements, not suggestions. The first General Rule of Methodism is “To do no harm.” We owe that to each other, so we must each do our part.

 

Worship

We will have both of our regular worship services at 8:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

First and foremost, if you have any symptoms of illness whatsoever, please stay home. Worship will be streamed live at 10:30 a.m. on Facebook, and uploaded by noon on YouTube.

Enter the sanctuary through the Main Street doors (unless you are coming from one of the Sunday school classes) and maintain 6 feet of space between household units.

Please consider arriving early to your service time of choice. If everyone arrives at 10:25, for example, then the line to enter will be long, and people will be stuck standing outside in the heat.

Hand sanitizer is located on a table in the Narthex. Wash your hands upon entering the building. (You may want to bring a bottle for your household to use).

Masks are required for all people entering the building. Please bring your own. I have 100 disposable masks available if you forget to bring one, but please remember to bring your own.

Offerings may be placed in the plate at the sanctuary entrance. We will not pass the offering plates during worship. Online donations may be made through our Vanco Giving Portal at this LINK.

We will fill pews from front to back. After you have washed your hands and are wearing your mask, move toward the front of the sanctuary. Please expect that you will not get to sit in the pew you’re used to. Take the nearest open pew to the front of the sanctuary. Only sit in pews that are open to seating. Every other pew is labeled as closed to seating.

We will dismiss from back to front. It’s Biblical: “So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”

ADDITIONAL NOTE: We will not have Communion on Sunday, June 28. This is due, in part, to my attending my mother-in-law’s visitation and funeral on June 15 & 16. At those events, I was in contact with people from a variety of states from every corner of the nation. The other part is the fact that many areas are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases (including Posey County). Out of an abundance of caution, therefore, we will not have Communion this Sunday.

 

Adult Sunday School

Adult Sunday school classes will be held at their regular time at 9:30 a.m. but, I’ll remind you, that the locations of the classes have changed.

The Bible 101 class will meet in the chapel on the upper floor near the sanctuary.

(If you have difficulty with stairs, it might be best to enter the building through the Main Street doors and get to the chapel through the left-side door at the front of the sanctuary).

The Foundations class will meet in the old parlor on the upper floor behind the sanctuary.

(Again, if you have difficulty with stairs, it might be best to enter the building through the Main Street doors and get to the parlor through the right-side door at the front of the sanctuary).

The Maranatha class will meet in the larger Wesley Hall gym area (not the classroom).

 

Children’s Programs

We do not have programs for children scheduled at this time. This includes Sunday school classes and WeeSing. Children will need to sit with their households during worship.

 

Personal Note

Thank you to everyone who has sent cards, gifts, flowers, and otherwise offered prayers and support to our family with the death of Joy’s mother, Ruth White. We appreciate the love and care our church family has provided.

Best regards,
Rev. Christopher Millay
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First UMC Reopening Guidelines

Guidelines for in-person worship, beginning Sunday, June 28, 2020

We will have both of our regular worship services at 8:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

1. If you have any symptoms of illness whatsoever, do not enter the building. Please remember that the first General Rule of Methodism is “To do no harm.” We owe that to each other.

2. Maintain 6 feet of space between household units.

3. If possible, please enter the sanctuary through the Main Street doors and move to the open seats nearest the front of the sanctuary. This is to help us maintain physical distancing.

4. Sit only in pews that are open to seating. Every other pew will be closed to seating.

5. A mask or other face covering is required. Please bring your own mask or face covering. (I have 100 disposable masks available in case you forget yours, but please remember to bring your own).

6. Use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol minimum) to wash your hands immediately upon entering the church building. I will try to make some sanitizer available, but supplies are limited. It would be helpful if each household could bring a bottle for their own use.

7. No materials, including bulletins, will be handed out for worship.

8. Children will remain in the pew with their household unit. We will not have a Children’s Moment in worship. We will not have Wee-Sing or other children’s activities during worship.

9. Offerings may be dropped in a plate at the sanctuary entrances. We will not pass the offering plates during worship.

10. Hymnals, Bibles, writing utensils, and other materials will not be available in the pews. Worship songs, prayers, and other responses will be projected on the screen.

11. Holy Communion will be served to each household in the pews with bread only.

  • I will put on a mask, sanitize my hands, and wear gloves prior to handling the bread.
  • No juice will be served as there is not a safe way to do so. (Theologically, the bread is both body and blood, and the juice is both body and blood, so this is still FULL Communion).
  • I will hand a large piece of bread to one member of each household. That household member may then distribute the bread to the rest of their own household.
  • If you are uncomfortable with receiving Holy Communion, that’s perfectly fine. Simply decline when I offer it to you or your household.

12. We will dismiss by row from back to front and exit through the Main Street doors.

13. We will not provide coffee in the Gathering Room.

14. We will not have Sunday School classes for children and youth. The current recommendation is to not have children’s programs like Sunday School until the public school system resumes.

15. We will disinfect the sanctuary between worship services with disinfectant spray.

16. Adult Sunday School classes may meet while using social/physical distancing guidelines. The classrooms in Wesley Hall, however, are not large enough to allow for physical/social distancing, so each adult class will convene in a new location.

  • The Bible 101 class will meet in the chapel on the upper floor near the sanctuary. (If you have difficulty with stairs, it might be best to enter the building through the Main Street sanctuary doors and get to the chapel through the left-side door at the front of the sanctuary).
  • The Foundations class will meet in the old parlor on the upper floor behind the sanctuary. (Again, if you have difficulty with stairs, it might be best to enter the building through the Main Street sanctuary doors and get to the parlor through the right-side door at the front of the sanctuary).
  • The Maranatha class will meet in the larger Wesley Hall gym area (not the classroom).

17. Online donations may still be made through our Vanco Giving Portal at this LINK.

Remember | Holy Trinity A

Worship Video

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” (CEB)

Remember

Trinity Sunday is kind of like the Church’s kickoff for summer vacation of sorts. It marks the end of that string of seasons filled with all the great holy days like Christmas, Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord, Transfiguration, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. In fact, there are no more commemorations of Christ on the liturgical calendar until Christ the King, which is the Sunday before Advent begins, and we have half a year to go until Advent. Oh, we’ve got All Saints’ Day on November 1st, but other than that, the church calendar is relatively quiet.

Of all the church’s dogma’s, God as Trinity—Three-In-One; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is one of the more difficult ones to understand. Kind of like the infinite nature of God. Try to wrap your head around the idea that God is infinite, with no beginning and no end. God is a mystery, and a full understanding of God is very much beyond our cognitive abilities. God can neither be comprehended by our limited human imaginations nor defined by our limited human languages.

Leslie Newbigin, a Bishop of the Church of South India and one of the 20th century’s most prominent theologians, wrote, “In the ears of the vast majority of people, the word ‘God’ certainly does not evoke the thought of the triune God. The public image of God is unitarian. And this is, of course, not new. I remember a visit to the ruins of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, when, as we walked from one part of the site to another, a friend read the relevant text from the official guide at each point. When we reached the ruins of the Chapter House, the text was as follows: ‘Here the monks gathered every Sunday to hear a sermon from the Abbot, except on Trinity Sunday, owing to the difficulty of the subject’” (Newbigin, The Trinity as Public Truth, p2).

The Holy Trinity is, indeed, a difficult concept. But why should anyone think otherwise? Afterall, we’re talking about God. As I’ve already said, we can’t have a full understanding of God. All we know about God is what God has revealed to us. What we can know is God’s love, and God’s love is most fully revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ.

We know that our Holy Scriptures speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but what we read in Scripture is not the fully-defined Trinitarian Doctrine we have today and recite in the Nicene Creed. That didn’t develop until the fourth century, and only then because some really bad theology was threatening the church. What Matthew probably knew at the time he wrote his Gospel is that Christians speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and such speech did not run contrary to the theology that God is one, and the Lord alone is the true God (c.f. Deuteronomy 6:4). Well-defined Trinitarian doctrine was not something Matthew was concerned about.

Rather, Matthew was more concerned about how to get the relatively small, comparatively powerless, and somewhat apprehensive church to venture out into a rather frightening world and speak the Gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ—to the powers that be: powers that proved so often to be in opposition to the good news. The early church knew better than we do—because we don’t often think about it—that the story of Jesus Christ begins and ends with the violence of empire and the injustices and abuses associated with human power.

Think about this event, where Jesus speaks these final instructions to his disciples. They’re gathered on a mountain so insignificant that it isn’t even named in the text. They’re in Galilee, of all places, which was a backwater region of the empire. The number of disciples is down to eleven. Some of the disciples are doubtful even as this event unfolds. Even as they see the resurrected Jesus. Even as Jesus speaks to them. It’s not exactly a powerful beginning for the church. Yet, throughout the human story, God has chosen to show God’s glory, God’s redemption, God’s salvation, and God’s power in frailty and weakness. Especially—and always—the frailty, weakness, and vulnerability of love.

Paul talks about this enigma in 2 Corinthians 4: “God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. We who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies that are dying” (2 Cor. 4:6-11 CEB).

Love requires vulnerability and self-giving of the one who loves. Love acts in specific ways. Paul describes what love does and doesn’t do in 1 Corinthians 13, which I invite you to read again (before the next wedding you attend). Those with earthly power turn to violence and brutality out of fear and hate, but those who love act with confidence that God is more powerful than the so-called powers of the world.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is, at its very core, a doctrine of loving relationship. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in a unity of love that is the definition of relationship and self-giving. That’s why John can say, “We have known and have believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them” (1 John 4:16 CEB).

In Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus reminds us to carry the loving relationship we have with God and with each other out into the world so we can build even more relationships. That’s how we make disciples. We show people that we love them and build relationships. We can invite others to be in relationships with us, but really, we’re sent out to show others that we desire to be in relationships with them. Making disciples is an outwardly focused activity.

We’re to make disciples of all nations, but that word nation does not mean modern nation-states as we know them. The Greek word is ethnos. It means people who are not like you; foreigners. Tom Long notes that Biblical truths are easier to swallow when they’re nice thoughts in a prayer book. But when it’s something you’re expected to strap your boots on and get done, it can suddenly look intimidating (Feasting on the Word, A.3, p47). Kind of like loving your enemies and praying for those who harass you (c.f. Matthew 5:44). They’re nice thoughts, but to actually have to do them… that’s another matter.

Yet, Matthew reminds us that God is continually present with us. Jesus came to be Emmanuel, which means God with Us. Followers of Jesus Christ are never alone. We can have confidence in our work of disciple making and teaching because Jesus has all. The word all is used four times in verses 18-20. Jesus has all authority. We’re commanded by Jesus to make disciples of all peoples. We’re commanded by Jesus to teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us. And Jesus has all the days until the end of the age.

Matthew also reminds us that God’s authority makes human authority look like the fleeting and insignificant thing it really is. As much as the powerful try to hold on to their power by any means they can—including violence—power always slips from their grasp. Matthew assures us that all power belongs to God. And that power has been given to Jesus who is always with us.

It’s worth noting again that some of the disciples doubted even as they saw and worshiped Jesus. Doubt is a common theme for the disciples. The same disciples who followed Jesus were riddled with doubt. They sound a lot like us, I think. Yet, Jesus never belittles them for their doubt. Instead, Jesus encourages those with little faith. The disciples didn’t have a full understanding of God any more than we do. But it doesn’t require a full understanding to be faithful and obedient to the commandments and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Trinity Sunday reminds us that the Persons of the Trinity are connected to each other in intimate relationship, and we are invited into that relationship. God’s actions have shown us that we are loved. We are connected to each other in a loving community and we are compelled to love the people around us—people different from us. We’re to love others so relentlessly, in fact, that each person knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are loved.

Trinity Sunday is all about relationships. And we are invited to go deeper, to love better, to open our arms wider, to see more clearly how intimately connected we are to God, and to each other: those whom we know and those who are foreign to us. Our call is to go and love as the Triune God has loved us. Love is how we make disciples. More than anything else, our loving words and actions are what teach the commandments of Jesus.

While Trinity Sunday marks the end of those seasons packed full of great Holy days and festivals, there is also a sense that this Sunday hands us off to fulfill the commission of Jesus. This season acts like a reflection of the post-ascension lives of the disciples. With our Lord’s Great Commission still ringing in our ears, it’s time to go and make disciples of all.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

~Rev. Christopher Millay

Wednesday Update (on a Thursday) 04 June 2020

Dear members and friends of First UMC,

First, I think it is important to acknowledge that our nation—and especially our nation’s Black community—has experienced a difficult week and a half. I, too, am outraged at what happened to George Floyd and so many others before him. I hope you have been praying, as I have, for a path forward that includes justice, peace, and reconciliation. I hope that you, like me, are praying for an end to violence, especially systematic violence in our society.

Followers of Jesus Christ are a people called to love. We are called to the often-difficult work of peacemaking. We are called to the struggle of justice-seeking. I add my voice to those of our Bishop and Extended Cabinet (which includes First UMC’s former pastors Rev. Mitch Giesselman, Rev. Russ Abel, and Rev. Gary Schaar). The Bishop and Extended Cabinet’s statement can be read on our church’s Facebook page at this LINK.

This is one of those moments where remaining silent is not an option. Black lives matter. And before anyone attempts to correct me by saying, But pastor, all lives matter, I want you to hear this. The slogan, “All lives matter” cannot be a thing until Black lives matter. Until Black lives matter, “All lives matter” is a lie.

I am the son of a police officer. I support law enforcement and the officers who put themselves on the line every day to serve and protect. At the same time, I absolutely, unequivocally, condemn violent policing. We do not condemn all law enforcement officers by condemning the violence of the worst among them who casually commit murder.

Nor can we condemn all protesters because the worst few among them turn to violence and looting. We can support law enforcement officers AND condemn violence at the same time. We can support protesters, along with their demand for just reforms and equal justice under the law AND condemn violence at the same time.

This is most definitely not about choosing sides with any particular political party. Rather, this is simply about right vs. wrong; justice vs. injustice; equality vs. inequality; righteousness vs. sin.

The people of The United Methodist Church must stand on the side of justice because the side of justice is where God stands. If you’d like to check out information about what our denomination says about race issues, then I encourage you to visit the UMC’s General Council on Race and Religion website https://www.gcorr.org/ to learn more.

Second, I want to share our plan for reopening in-person worship on Sunday, June 28. After consulting with Dr. Joseph Lee and reading through the Indiana Department of Health and CDC&P guidelines, I have made the decision to reopen in-person worship at First UMC on Sunday, June 28.

As in the past, we will have worship services at 8:15 and 10:30 a.m. The State of Indiana will be in Stage 4 of its Back on Track Indiana plan on June 28. Avoiding physical contact is still the goal and we must follow CDC social/physical distancing guidelines. That means we will not shake hands or offer hugs. (Now is a good time to practice your Vulcan “Live long and prosper” greeting so you’re ready for it on Sunday morning).

It is still recommended that those age 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems stay home. We will continue to stream our worship services live. If you are in one of these categories (as I am) and choose to be present, then it is all the more important for you to avoid physical contact with other households and practice physical/social distancing.

That said, the following guidelines are what we must all agree to follow to ensure the safety and well-being of each other on Sunday mornings:

  1. If you have any symptoms of illness whatsoever, do not enter the building. Please remember that the first General Rule of Methodism is “To do no harm.” We owe that to each other.
  2. Maintain 6 feet of space between household units.
  3. If possible, please enter the sanctuary through the Main Street doors and move to the open seats nearest the front of the sanctuary. This is to help us maintain physical distancing.
  4. Sit only in pews that are open to seating. Every other pew will be closed to seating.
  5. A mask or other face covering is required. Please bring your own mask or face covering. (I have ordered disposable masks in case you forget to bring yours, but I will not have enough for everyone).
  6. Use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol minimum) to wash your hands immediately upon entering the church building. I will try to make some sanitizer available, but supplies are limited. It would be helpful if each household could bring a bottle for their own use.
  7. No materials, including bulletins, will be handed out for worship.
  8. Children will remain in the pew with their household unit. We will not have a Children’s Moment in worship. We will not have Wee-Sing or other children’s activities during worship.
  9. Offerings may be dropped in a plate at the sanctuary entrances. We will not pass the offering plates during worship.
  10. Hymnals, Bibles, writing utensils, and other materials will not be available in the pews. Worship songs, prayers, and other responses will be projected on the screen.
  11. Holy Communion will be served to each household in the pews with bread only. I will put on a mask, sanitize my hands, and wear gloves prior to handling the bread. No juice will be served as there is not a safe way to do so. (Theologically, the bread is both body and blood, and the juice is both body and blood, so this is still FULL Communion). I will hand a large piece of bread to one member of each household. That household member may then distribute the bread to the rest of their own household. If you are uncomfortable with receiving Holy Communion, that’s perfectly fine. Simply decline when I offer it to you or your household.
  12. We will dismiss by row from back to front and exit through the Main Street doors.
  13. We will not provide coffee in the Gathering Room.
  14. We will not have Sunday School classes for children. The current recommendation is to not have children’s programs like Sunday School until the public school system resumes.
  15. We will disinfect the sanctuary between worship services with disinfectant spray.

I look forward to gathering together with you again on June 28! Until then, stay safe and take care of each other.

Best regards,
Rev. Christopher Millay

Friday Addendum: June 5, 2020

Dear friends and members of First UMC, Hello again!

I neglected to mention adult Sunday school classes in my weekly update yesterday. Adult Sunday school classes are welcome to resume on June 28 while using the same guidelines established for worship. Your Sunday school teachers and I had previously come up with a plan in early May, but I should have included it in the update yesterday for the sake of clarity.

The rooms in Wesley Hall are not large enough to allow for physical/social distancing, so each adult class will convene in a new location.

The Bible 101 class will meet in the chapel on the upper floor near the sanctuary. If you have difficulty with stairs, it might be best to enter the building through the Main Street sanctuary doors (use the ramp from the sidewalk) and get to the chapel through the left-side door at the front of the sanctuary.

The Foundations class will meet in the old parlor on the upper floor behind the sanctuary. If you have difficulty with stairs, it might be best to enter the building through the Main Street sanctuary doors (use the ramp from the sidewalk) and get to the parlor through the right-side door at the front of the sanctuary.

The Maranatha class will meet in the larger Wesley Hall gym area (not the classroom).

Best regards,
Rev. Christopher Millay

One Spirit | Pentecost

The Scripture reading and sermon are posted below the videos.

Worship Service videos (Due to a camera issue, we had to post it in two parts).

 

CCLI #4051999 | One License #735189-A

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

3b no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; 5 and there are different ministries and the same Lord; 6 and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. 8 A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, 9 faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, 10 performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. 11 All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. (CEB)

One Spirit

I remember that, as a teenager and probably a few years into my 20s, I used to be a little worried about the idea of “Spiritual Gifts.” First, I wondered if I had any because I didn’t see anything in me that was particularly special. Yet, Paul seems to insist that we all have them.

I’d heard people talk about Spiritual Gift Inventories, which are questionnaires that you can fill out to determine what your supposed Spiritual gifts are. But I also wondered if God would really make it so difficult to figure these things out. I mean, really? A questionnaire? Let’s call it what it is: a test? I don’t like tests. I never did well on tests, so I didn’t bother with any of the inventories out there. But I was deeply curious to know what my Spiritual gift might be. (Also, do you only get one?).

Here’s what I knew. I couldn’t perform any miracles (believe me, I tried). I barely knew what wisdom was, let alone be able to utter it. I was still a student during those years, so knowledge, well, I was still working on that one. I thought I had faith, but I know I’m not the only one out there who tried that whole tell a tree to be uprooted and planted into the sea thing only to have the tree stay right where it was. Maybe part of the problem was that we don’t really have a sea in Evansville, so my attempt failed because of a technicality. I would have tried to move a mountain, but we didn’t have any mountains in Evansville, either. Speaking in tongues… heck, I barely passed high school German. Healing… I tried to heal myself of the need for glasses. I prayed for it many times, but it obviously didn’t work.

Still, I wondered. When was the Holy Spirit gonna hit me up with my gift? How would I know when I got it? What cool things would I be able to do? Personally, I was hoping for the ability to time travel and, maybe, manipulate matter with my mind.

But that’s where I was totally going wrong. I kind of thought about Spiritual gifts in terms of superpowers or, at least, extraordinarily cool things. I mean, it’s really Paul’s fault because he casually mentions the gift of “performance of miracles” in verse 10, and I’m like, Can I get that one, please?! I’m gonna miraculously find me a pot of gold.

And, just like the Christians at Corinth, that’s another part of this Spiritual gift thing that I was getting wrong. Spiritual gifts are not for me. They aren’t even mine. This gift cannot be separated from the giver. The gift isn’t about me. The gift isn’t even for me. That’s what took me so long to understand.

The Corinthians were so much like us in many ways. They were just as self-centered as any of us can be. They were just as divided about how they understood their Christian faith and how they were to live as followers of Jesus as we can be. They could see themselves, their faith, their ways, their beliefs, and their gifts, even their wealth, as superior to others just as readily as we do. In other words, they were just as flawed, just as broken, just as human as we are.

They exasperated Paul as much as we would exasperate Paul. And they really disliked Paul as much as we would dislike Paul if he were writing to us. Honestly, if you don’t think you would dislike Paul, then you aren’t reading First and Second Corinthians as if you’re on the receiving end of his tongue-lashing, criticism, and what’s essentially name-calling (he describes them as spiritual babies and milk-drinkers, remember).

But, mostly, Paul was upset with the Corinthian Christians because they failed to grow into a true community. In Chapter 11, Paul chewed them out for the way they ate the Lord’s meal—what was supposed to be a shared community meal. They didn’t wait for each other. Some ate privately, apart from the others and, therefore, not as a community. Some got drunk while others—always the poor—went hungry. They shared Holy Communion by not sharing in community. They partook of the Lord’s Supper separately, inequitably, and non-communally. What was supposed to be worshipful of God ended up humiliating the poor. Anyone who has ever read the Bible knows that God loves and takes extra particular care to mention over and over again God’s favor for the poor and vulnerable.

The Corinthians were not living as a God-centered community ought. Paul describes the church community in egalitarian terms, but the Corinthians weren’t living that way. They even bragged about their Spiritual gifts to the point that they were, apparently, setting up a hierarchy of which gifts were more important or desirable than others. Can you believe the arrogance? Yeah, we ought to because we see it all the time. Paul’s discussion of Spiritual matters in chapter 12 is a continuation of his pointing out exactly where the Corinthians—and often times we—have gone wrong.

Spiritual gifts, Paul says, are not for the sake of individuals. Spiritual gifts are given to each individual for the sake of the community, and for reaching others in the name of Jesus Christ. They’re given by God as a grace for the common good. They’re to unite us rather than cause division. No one gift is more important than another.

Paul’s use of the body metaphor wasn’t new. The Romans used that metaphor, which they called the Body Politic. The idea was that each person had their place. They should know their place and stay there. Those at the bottom of the hierarchy should do their job, no matter how menial, for the greater glory of the empire. Because, what really mattered was not you, the individual, but the empire. So, if you made your living by cleaning sewers, keep at it for the glory of Rome! Paul uses the idea but changes it to show how no one part is more or less important than another. All are equal in God—Greeks, Jews, Romans, slaves, citizens, women, men: all are equal. It was a radical concept.

Paul’s lists of Spiritual gifts, themselves (c.f. Romans 12), are not exhaustive. They’re simply a few of the gifts he saw at work among the early church communities. Part of me wonders if he didn’t throw the performance of miracles in there—in part—to shame those Corinthians who were boasting of the priority and loftiness of their cool gifts. Some Greek language scholars suggest that the word “gift,” as it’s translated into English, is slightly problematic, because we think of gifts as belonging to the one who receives it. In other words, we think the gift belongs to us. But we cannot separate what is received from the one who gave it.

While the Greek word in 12:4 does refer to something that is given or bestowed, the keyword is found in verse 7. These gifts are demonstrations or disclosures of the Spirit. Some translations use the word manifestation. These are demonstrations of God, not demonstrations of our own power. These are gifts with which God graces us for the sake of the church. In other words, the gifts are meant to reveal God to others and, in so doing, to build up the community of faith. Yet, the gifts aren’t necessarily superpowers.

Ironically, we live in a time when we wonder if any Spiritual gifts are real. We can doubt that the Holy Spirit still works and moves in ways that we might describe as miraculous or powerful. But why should we assume that Spiritual gifts are only miraculous or powerful?

Wisdom is simply practical instruction on how to live. Most of the book of Proverbs is instruction on how to make good choices so we can live well. We gain wisdom through life experience and through learning the ways of God. Yet, wisdom is a Spiritual gift because wisdom’s source is God. “The LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6 CEB).

Knowledge, too, is a gift from God. The ability to learn is wired into us. Knowledge and understanding about God and God’s ways come from God.

Faith is given by the Holy Spirit, too. Faith is our belief that God is reliable. Faith is acceptance that Jesus came from God. Faith is revealed in our actions and speech toward each other.

Healing can be many things, not only miraculous and instantaneous healing. More often than not, healing is a process. Sometimes, the process of healing begins with something as simple as listening to a person who needs to talk or being present with a person through their illness or difficulty.

Healing isn’t always physical. Sometimes, we need our hearts put back together, or we need our souls restored. When people walk with us through those trials, it can be incredibly healing. Healing was one of the main things Jesus came to do. He healed outcasts by restoring them to community. He healed sinners by offering them a new way to live, and telling then they were loved and accepted by God. Sometimes he resorted health and cured ailments, but physical healing was never the limit. Jesus welcomed prostitutes and tax collectors into God’s dominion. He gave the broken and rejected people of the world a home. That’s healing.

Paul also mentions performance of miracles as a Spiritual gift, which we see in various places throughout Scripture.

Prophecy is another gift, but prophecy is not foretelling the future. Prophecy and the role of prophets is to call people out for their misdeeds, and to call people back to the ways of faithfulness to God. Prophecy is to hold up a vision of the way things could be, to paint a vision of a better world. Prophets proclaim God’s word and ways to the world. Prophecy, therefore, is what I do every time I preach a sermon.

Discerning spirits, and speaking and interpreting languages are more gifts Paul mentions. In Romans 12, Paul mentions service, teaching, and encouragement as other Spiritual gifts. Note that performing a miraculous deed of power is only one of many Spiritual gifts. Paul says they’re all of equal importance. Whatever the gift might be, the gifts are for the common good. And, in the next chapter, Paul reminds us that without the exercise of love, all Spiritual gifts are meaningless.

Instead of trying to figure out what our God-imbued superpower is by taking a test (or even hoping for a God-imbued superpower at all), maybe a better way to discern our Spiritual gifts is by delving into the spiritual practices that connect us to God and to each other; practices that open us up to the movements and promptings of God. You might just find that you’ve been using your Spiritual gift for a long time.

Today is the Day of Pentecost, on which we celebrate the birthday of the Church. It’s the day the Holy Spirit came to a fledgling community-in-hiding and built that community into something beyond imagination. If you think about it, the church, itself, is a Spiritual gift, and everyone is invited to be an integral part of this egalitarian faith community. There are many gifts but the same Spirit; different ministries but the same Lord; many activities but the same God who produces them in everyone.

By God’s design, the church is wonderfully diverse. As it was for the Christians in Corinth, the matter of unity in the midst of that magnificent diversity is kind of up to us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Rev. Christopher Millay

Letter to the Congregation, 27 May 2020

Dear friends and members of First United Methodist Church, Greetings to you!

I hope you’re well and staying cool (literally and figuratively) through this Spring warm-up, and dry, since it’s been raining all day.

Firstly, I want to reiterate that your pastors are available should you need anything (short of an in-home visit, of course). I hope you have been able to find the videos of Sunday worship and daily Scripture readings on our Facebook and YouTube pages. Be sure to visit the church’s website for the links to those resources. (http://www.firstumcmv.com/).

Secondly, we are still on track to reopen for worship on either June 28 or July 5. That’s good news! When we do get together, however, we will need to maintain social distancing to the best of our ability. That means we will each need to avoid handshakes, hugs, high-fives, and other greetings of personal contact. We’ll also need to sit every other pew and stagger our seating to the left and right sides of the pews. It’s likely that we will also need to wear masks.

For the safety and well-being of every member of our congregation, we will follow the recommended CDC guidelines for worship gatherings.

Thirdly, I wanted to share an article that my uncle, Dr. Stephen Humpherys, sent me earlier this week. It was written by an immunologist/biologist at Dartmouth about risks as our country reopens. The article explains high and lower risk situations in which one may become infected, and how infection occurs. I found the information helpful, and I wanted to share it with you. You can read it by clicking this LINK.

Fourthly, and on a happier note, I’m thrilled to share the news that our ministry partner, Thrive, has earned national recognition for its partnership with the Civil Air Patrol (U.S. Air Force Auxiliary) and the Air Force Association! The Civil Air Patrol awarded Thrive its Collaborative Point of Light award for 2020.

This is an exciting and well-deserved achievement, and I hope you’re as proud as I am that First UMC hosts a program of this caliber. Many of Thrive’s volunteers and advisory board are members of First UMC, and our church is mentioned in the nationally published award article that describes Thrive, CAP, and the AFA’s partnership. You can read all about Thrive’s National Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) Collaborative Point of Light award by clicking this LINK.

All the 2020 Civil Air Patrol National Award Winners are listed at this LINK.

You may also want to check out Thrive’s Facebook Page.

And, a video of the Civil Air Patrol and Air Force Association’s work with Thrive.

Stay safe out there.

Best regards,
Rev. Christopher Millay

Letter to the Congregation, 20 May 2020

Dear Members and Friends of First UMC,

Greetings! I hope this letter finds you well. To start this week’s update, I’ll share some good news (not that I have any bad news). A few weeks ago, I applied for a grant called “Connect through Tech” offered by the Center for Congregations. First UMC was awarded this grant for the purchase of new technology. This new tech will improve our ability to live stream worship services. It will also improve the audio quality of our services. (Hopefully, that ever-present white noise in the background will go away).

Secondly, it looks like we’re still on track to reopen the church building for in-person worship either June 28 or July 5. I will make announcements on the date we reopen via our church’s website, email, Facebook, WordPress, and in our worship service videos (found on Facebook & YouTube). We will still have our 8:15 and 10:30 a.m. services. We will likely close every other pew to seating in order to maintain social distancing until the CDC and the Posey County Health Department relax those guidelines.

As of Tuesday, May 19, the Posey County Health Department stated on their Facebook page that we should all wear masks when we go to public places. PLEASE wear a mask in public and wash your hands often, for your own well-being and for the well-being of others.

Lastly, I want to let you know about worship this Sunday, May 24. Bishop Julius Trimble and the Extended Cabinet of the Indiana Conference have prepared a worship service for the Indiana Conference churches in celebration of Aldersgate Day. The worship service will include two former pastors of First UMC, Rev. Russ Abel and Rev. Mitch Gieselman, who both currently serve the Indiana Conference as District Superintendents.

The worship service will be posted to our Facebook, YouTube, and WordPress webpages on Sunday morning. I hope you’ll join the entire Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church for worship on Aldersgate Day. May your heart, too, be “strangely warmed.”

Best regards,
Rev. Christopher Millay
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