Stone Soup Celebration

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Consistent with Paul's analogy of church being like the human body (1 Corinthians 12 - every part/role is vital), worship last Sunday morning resembled the theme of the children's folk classic, Stone Soup. The children brought their bright and energetic musical, Judge Julie Truly at 9:45. Nigel Eastman and our Praise Band brought energy and joy with music at 8:30 and 11 a.m. with guest singer and youth Avery Moore adding her heart-felt voice, and I preached about stewardship. Our worship times and style were upside down. Somehow, by way of the Spirit, this worship soup came together and great was the thanksgiving; we had 850 people in worship. 

That coming together in common cause and celebration as the body of Christ happens again this Sunday. Over 400 people have RSVP'd for one of two grand BBQ meals in our gym at 11 a.m. and noon. But before that happens, EVERYONE is summoned to the cross on the east lawn at 10:45 for a moment of thanksgiving and prayer. We will recall the promise God made to this church 17 years ago at the same spot – a promise God has kept and which we have the privilege to keep with our three-year commitments to Our Home. An announcement will be made of what some 100 families (out of 479) have already committed to this all church effort.  

What will be yours?

Our top goal is $3M so every sacrifice counts; every ingredient that every family adds to this "soup" makes a difference for everyone. So come Sunday to see what's cooking in our kitchen and to keep praying earnestly, "Lord, what do you want to do through me?"

See you at the Celebration Place this Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

The Strength of Tears

I long to see you again and be filled with joy, for I remember your tears as we parted.
2 Timothy 1:4

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Myth: "Big boys don't cry."

  • The apostle Paul is "grateful to God," remembering Timothy constantly in his prayers and being inspired by the emotional strength of his young apprentice's sincere faith. Clearly, Paul is moved by Timothy's tears.
  • As the Parade of Ministry - all 90 placards - came down the center aisle last Sunday and then lined the walls of the sanctuary, embracing us with the love of so many ministries that many of us did not know existed, there were tears.
  • When the cardboard testimonies came down and witnessed silently to the power of God's love in their lives through this church, again there were tears.
  • In four Advance Commitment home gatherings as of today, members have witnessed to the power of that same divine love in their family's life and again, there were tears, more often by men than women - every time. It has been powerful and moving and, as with Paul, a great source of humbling joy and eagerness to join together again as the church - soon. 

No, big boys (and girls) do cry, knowing that when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

See you at the strong place this Sunday; He is risen indeed!

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

I Didn't Know That!

"John said, 'Master, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he isn't in our group of followers.'"  - Luke 9:49 (CEB)

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I have been here almost two years, and I still find myself saying, "I didn't know that!" when I discover yet another ministry or great work connected to FUMC Plano. The discovery surprises me and humbles me at the same time. Sometimes my pride rears up; I will hear of great work not attached to our church that a member is doing for many and think, "They should be doing that for their church." That is when I fall into the same sin as John who essentially complained the same to Jesus.  Jesus corrected John (and me) saying, "Don't stop him, because whoever isn't against you is for you" (vs.50).

This Sunday we will celebrate the many things the many people do for our community through our church. It will be visual, it will be personal, it will be surprising, and it will be humbling. The impact of our church's ministries will be witnessed just as Jan Samuels did so well in the video shown last Sunday. I encourage you not to miss worship and I also challenge you to bring a friend. You will be proud and they will be surprised. I promise that after church, the conversation you have together will have you both saying, "I didn't know that!"

See you in the surprising place this Sunday.

He is risen indeed!

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Easter: it's a season of life

Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee.  You will see him there, just as he told you.
Mark 16:7 (CEB)

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This is the young man's words to the women at the empty tomb Easter morning, according to Mark's gospel. Not alone, all four of the gospel accounts have this forward-leaning promise that is ongoing. There is a whole new future ahead because of the radical news of the present: he is not here; he is risen!  It is why historically for the Church, Easter is not a day but a season that runs for nearly 50 days until Pentecost (this year, May 20). This has real implications for us Christ-ones; among them:

  • Easter is not an event but an eventuality for all who believe;
  • A resurrected life assures the possibility of resurrection for all aspects of our lives and not just our eternal life;
  • The Easter life is a life to be generously shared with others;
  • The Easter life is one that finds joy and excitement in life;
  • The Easter life is one that loves life and cares deeply about all people;
  • The Easter life is for all the seasons of our lives. 

We will doing a lot of things over the next few weeks before Pentecost and summer, but undergirding all of them will be the joy of this resurrection reality that is our good news to share.

He is risen indeed!

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

"Company's Coming"

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That's what our mom would say when we were kids and we knew from training what that meant:

  •  Clean up your room.
  • Help Mom clean the house.
  • Help Mom set out the cups, dishes and decorations.
  • Put on some nice clean clothes.
  • Welcome the guests by looking them in the eyes, shake their hands and say, "Hi, I'm Matt; pleased to meet you."

Then we could go and play - preferably outside, especially if the company included other kids. 

Company's coming Sunday - a lot of them, and we have been getting ready to welcome them:

  • We have cleaned up our rooms.
  • We have cleaned the house.
  • We have helped set out the cups, dishes and decorations.
  • We will put on some nice clean clothes.

On Easter it will be time to welcome our guests, look them in the eyes, shake their hands and say, "Hi, I'm (your name here); pleased to meet you."

And then see where the Spirit takes your conversation. Easter is an amazing time, better still when shared with a smile and honest welcome.

See you at the welcoming place Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Quiet Strength

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Meet Hailey Peters. We have been praying for over the last six weeks during her stay at Children's Medical Center of Dallas.

Hailey just quietly moved to Our Children's House Dallas where she will begin more intensive physical therapy. Hailey is one of the strongest people I know. In a culture where strength is too often defined by dominating power of all kinds, Hailey stubbornly defies our definitions and expectations. Like the last years' #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movements, Hailey's strength has been quiet, unassuming, unexpected, determined perseverance ... and we are all richer for her witness.

In the Gospel of Mark (Mark 11:1-11) Jesus enters Jerusalem, he does so with little fanfare. Matthew has "crowds" and Luke has "multitudes," as in the coronation of a king. Mark's version is much quieter; intentionally portraying the quiet strength of the Jesus who is coming. He does not make any bold proclamations; he does not immediately overturn tables. He simply surveys the Temple and goes off to rest and to wait ... expectantly.  

We come to Palm Sunday and Easter hoping for a lot of fanfare. Perhaps what we need is something else - a quiet strength and hope beyond our own. Look to Hailey; look to Jesus; stay in prayer.

See YOU in worship this Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Prescriptions, Palm Sunday and Easter

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Two months ago we voted as a church 172-4 on five prescriptions from our joint Healthy Church Initiative process. Two of those prescriptions were scheduled in the first 60-90 days, i.e. by Easter. A number of motivated members have worked with good energy around those prescriptions as we discern intentional steps forward.  Here is where we are.

UPDATE:

1. Vision Statement - After a Vision and Values workshop led by our coach, the Rev. Gene Wisdom, a Vision Statement was discerned, discussed and voted unanimously at the March 12 meeting of our church council, the First Leadership Team. It reads,

Connecting God and grace to self and community.

Much more to say about this, including a sermon series; it was the good feeling of our First Leadership Team that this captured the values and goals repeatedly raised by our people over the course of the HCI process. Our Vision Statement will become the baseline for decision-making about what we do and choose not to do as was discussed in the book, Simple Church (may be purchased on Amazon HERE). 

2. Hospitality - Beginning on Palm Sunday and continuing through Easter, we will be incorporating suggested changes to help us move from being not only friendly (which we do well) to being more intentionally welcoming and connecting to new faces among us. Trained "meet-ers" will make their debut on these Sundays. Of course this is a gift of love and hospitality that everyone can give someone. Like the crowds welcoming Jesus on Palm Sunday, may we be those who hail the new faces among us, for indeed in their faces we may just discover the face of Christ.

See you at the welcoming place this Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Where Is Your Walk in the Woods?

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Attending a seminar at a retreat center west of Lewisville, I was struck by how, even in themidst of loud development that has grown and surrounded the retreat center, one can still take a walk in the woods that allows for quiet and time alone with God. I am reminded that however hectic my life is, there is always a place and time that I can steal away for the quiet I need in order to hear God's soothing whisper for my mangled nerves.

We are halfway through Lent. I pray you find your quiet walk each day.

Praying for you,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Prayers Needed

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The prayer of a righteous person availeth much. - James 5:16

I cannot remember a time quite like this in my ministry:  

  • Pastor Ed is recovering after the insertion of two stents around his heart and is back part-time; 
  • Lisa is recovering from reconstructive surgery and will be out for another two weeks;
  • Rachel is in the hospital for diagnosis and treatment of her kidneys;

I am praying for my friends and colleagues and ask you to do the same.  You are a gracious and righteous church.  I know that your prayers "availeth much" for these we love and who love us much. 

Trusting in the promises,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

God Has Work for Us to Do

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This is the title of an anthem that became a favorite this time last year as we prayed through the Lenten theme, "Roll Down Justice." Both anthem and theme challenged us to ponder, reflect and rededicate ourselves to the holy change that has to happen within us before we can expect a change in the world around us. 

This year, the challenge for holy change during Lent is the same and on three fronts: our Healthy Church Initiative prescription process, the Our Home capital campaign process, and our own souls. We are simultaneously working on our first two prescriptions - hospitality and vision - and our campaign teams are recruiting, meeting and training. These will bear fruit to the extent that we all do the work within our own souls. "Lord, what do you want to do through me?" is an appropriate prayer for all three of these holy efforts.

During this Lenten season, be in prayer, be in worship, and be open to the Spirit and holy change within your life because ... God has work for us to do.


Thanks be to God,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor