God Brought God's Best. How About Us?

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This Sunday's lectionary text, 1 Samuel 3:1-20, convicted me to preach to our youth and children this Sunday. Everyone else can listen in, but I will be addressing them particularly. I have such a heart for children and youth because I know first hand the formative impact God has on the hearts and minds of young people, just as God had on Samuel. God always brings God's best and asks us to always consider the same in grateful response. 

This communion Sunday, on the altar that Lynette always prepares beautifully, we will be reminded again that God brought God's best to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus will again stand at the altar – present in the bread and cup – and invite us to the prayer rail and bring our best: our honest confessions, our unanswered prayers, our frustrations, and also our hopes, our dreams and our thanksgivings. As Samuel and Nathan did, so Jesus also invites us to bring the very best of our material offerings – our gifts and "First Fruits" – for these validate our words as more than simply words; they say truly that we brought our best.

So grateful for you,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Power of Love

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The power of love is the talk of the Royals and the world after Bishop Curry’s challenging message to us all at The Royal Wedding this past Saturday. He refers to love within the context of Matthew 22: 34-40 in which Jesus, gives us the great commandment which is to love God, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. For some the more difficult part of this commandment is to love ourselves.

May is Mental Health Awareness month, which immediately brings to mind our very own Wellspring Counseling Center directed by Carolyn Maurer. Since its inception in June 2014, Wellspring counselors have seen over 1250 clients. Our Counseling Center is unique in our community in that it provides affordable counseling by using a graduated fee structure based on family size and income by faith-based counselors here on our campus. An on-site counseling center at First United Methodist Church Plano is a grace-filled means of meeting the mental health needs of our community, both members and non-members, so that they may grow in faith and in their ability to cope with life’s stressors and challenges. If you have any questions or wish additional information, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Let us continue to celebrate love for God and other as well as ourselves.  

See you on Sunday,

Lisa Test
Minister of Outreach & Development

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Taking Care of Dad and Church

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When I needed to take over the financial affairs of my dad in addition to our own, I realized pretty soon that unless I automated, I would miss some payments that I wanted to make on his behalf and ours. Once I set up some bank drafts and some autopay accounts on his credit card (where he could earn some points), managing his monthly cash flow and ours became much easier. It was efficient, faster, a cost saver, and gave me peace of mind that I was doing right by the vendors even when I was out of town. I take the same tack toward our heavenly Father and our church.  

Cammy and I automate our giving - both our 10% and our Our Home commitment. I know those gifts of gratitude are vital for our church's momentum and need to come in on a regular basis. I also know that because of vacation and other commitments, we will miss some Sundays this summer; my peace of mind comes from knowing our giving will not.  

Co-Chairs the Rev. Alice and Gary Coder will announce this Sunday our grand total of commitments before summer and a lot of work around "our home" begins. I want to challenge all of you to automate your giving; you will do right by your heavenly Father, your church and your spirit this summer as you take some much deserved time with your families.  

Blessings on your sabbath this Sunday and summer,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Mom Showed Us the Way

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"There, there; everything's going to be all right."

I can remember my mom saying that at various points in time to my three sisters and me while growing up. It didn't lessen the hurt or promise to do so, but Mom's cooing assurance always made the hurt more tolerable as she listened to us, held us and rocked us. What Mom did not know was that she was teaching us a theology of hope in the face of pain, suffering and loss. 

"Theodicy" is the theological word. "Theo" means God, and "dicy" comes from the Greek word meaning justice. Together the word is how we think and talk about an all good and all powerful God and God's justice in the face of obvious evil and suffering. It is hard but not impossible to resolve (cf. Revelation 21:3-7). I want to talk a little bit about that this Sunday for Mother's Day and as we say goodbye to Rachel Escamilla, our Intern for the last nine months from SMU (be sure to attend the reception after the 11 a.m. service!).  After all, it was most of our moms who taught us the biblical and theological truth, "everything's going to be all right."

Bring Mom; we have the gift of a flower waiting for her and every woman who is our guest this Sunday.  

Thanks Mom,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

They Want to See Us Live It

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This Sunday I have the privilege of confirming the vows of membership that over 25 young people will make in front of the congregation during the 8:30 a.m. worship hour. Ed and I have interviewed all of them and those that are choosing to join are consistently clear that they want to join a church where the faith is seen and lived out together. They want to be included and all in with those they see are inclusive and all in with their faith. This inspires me and makes me ever so proud to be their pastor and welcome them as the newest members of FUMC Plano (our total will be over 50 for the year). 

This Sunday is also Commitment Sunday for everyone already a member.  We have the opportunity to show these Confirmands that we are all in with our commitment to their future and ours. They will watch as we get up out of our pews and bring our Our Home commitment cards to the railing as our praise and thank God from whom all blessings flow. As of today, we are but a few thousand dollars away from our $2 million First Step goal; on Confirmation Sunday, we have the chance to blow by that toward the Our Home goal of $3 million. 

As new members, those Confirmands will be challenged to make their own commitment to our common future. But make no mistake: they will learn what they see us live and they want to see us live it first. Let's do that for them in a big way.  

See you at the teaching place this Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

 Earlier this year our Confirmands attended the Bishop's Rally together at Christ UMC in Plano. 

Earlier this year our Confirmands attended the Bishop's Rally together at Christ UMC in Plano. 

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