Looking for the Good

Antonio Basco hugs a mourner. People came from across the country and waited in 100-degree heat to attend his wife's service.   JONATHAN LEVINSON / OPB

Antonio Basco hugs a mourner. People came from across the country and waited in 100-degree heat to attend his wife's service.

JONATHAN LEVINSON / OPB

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On Sunday I told the story of Antonio Basco, 61, who lost his wife Margie in the hate shooting in El Paso. He feared no one would come to her memorial service, only to discover 1500 people in line to honor his wife and hug on him. It was for me a timely reminder that we are all surrounded by a "multitude of witnesses," both heavenly and earthly who are looking and rooting for the good to be done in our troubled world. Well, there is a P.S. to that story.  I am obliged to member David Wille for sending along the news link.

Turns out that on the day of Margie's memorial service, thieves stole Antonio's only vehicle, his mobile car wash van and trailer. Upon recognition of his plight, people who look for the good, were moved to action. A local car dealer gave him the keys to a new van and another benefactor bought him a new trailer and power sprayer rig.

 At our best, we Christians look for the good to do and do it. This Saturday and Sunday, we are giving ourselves similar opportunities as the body of Christ. On Saturday, we will be helping a married couple in their 70s with the repairs and yard work of their home. On Sunday we will be looking for the good and doing it in a dozen other initiatives after our one worship service at 10 a.m.  And this time we’re including projects for adults and children to do together. You may sign up HERE. I hope you will make a point to be there because there is so much good to do.

So come to church with your work clothes on and water bottles in hand, enjoy a bit of breakfast, praise God and then "go out unto all the world," looking for the good and doing it in the name of Jesus. 

Amen - "so be it."

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Won't You Be My Neighbor?

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The Rev. Fred Rogers sung that question for years on his cutting-edge, award-winning show that was for kids of all ages. He believed strongly in Jesus' and the Bible's mandate to reach out to every person of every type to lovingly invite them to be our neighbor. As a society we have largely forgotten how to do that and do it well. In fact, as an increasingly fearful society, we tend to avoid the opportunities before us to begin those introductory holy conversations. As the church of Jesus Christ, we are about to learn what our grandparents did automatically: how to be a good neighbor.

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By unanimous Church Council approval and a generous member's gift of $2000, our church will join eight other area churches in the Neighboring Movement. Some 20 people from our church will meet weekly studying, praying and learning how to intentionally be a good neighbor to the people right on the block where they live - in Plano, Parker, Wylie, Allen, Murphy, Fairview, Sachse, Richardson - our mission field. They will meet three times with similar groups from the eight other churches including FUMC Dallas, to be coached and encouraged together in this strategy to meet our mission field where they live. This initiative meets the goals of our Healthy Church Initiative to reach new families in our mission field and Connect God and Grace to Self and Community.

If you have curiosity about this outreach strategy, give me a call or contact the Rev. Diane Presley, dipresley@hotmail.com. We are now creating this group for the fall. The first cohort meeting with other churches happens in late September. I am confident about the outcomes the Spirit will bring about as we learn to ask the stranger, "Won't you be my neighbor?

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God's Justice Rolls Down ... with an Assist From Us

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Sitting stream-side in Colorado each cool morning this week, Bible and journal in hand, I have felt so very far away from the Texas landscape and summer heat. But the events of the past weekend in Dayton and El Paso have kept the anguish in Ohio and Texas clinging tightly to my heart and prayers daily. They fill my prayer journal pages.

Losing myself in the gurgling sound of water tumbling irrepressibly from the Rocky Mountain tops to the Gulf of Mexico, I am reminded of the prophet Amos who must have pondered similar waters when he proclaimed, "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24). Amos comprehended correctly that regardless of the pain and injustice that we perpetrate upon ourselves and others, God's graciousness and God's justice will not be deterred; it will not be damned up. It will most certainly roll forward.

Curiously though, ever since the Garden of Eden, God chose US to be partners in this venture - collaborators with God to bring about this justice in the world. God could certainly do it by Godself, but that would be controlling, even dictatorial. Instead, God spoke through the prophets and came in the person of Jesus to show us how to actively help God's justice roll down more freely by binding the wounded, loving the stranger, and opening floodgates in broken systems that dam up justice intended for all. In God's economy, in the covenant God has made with each of us through our baptism, God needs an assist from us, the Church - an assist that goes beyond prayers and moves into action, just as surely as the ever-moving waters of this Colorado stream, rolling forward.

Christ's partner with you,

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Sacred Conversations

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This past Sunday, as we woke up to the news of yet another deadly shooting, this one in Dayton, Ohio, some began to get ready for church for the first time in a long time. Others were preparing for church as was their habit. All were arriving at their destinations with a heaviness of heart.  All were tired and sad and angry that they had to pray again over mass shootings. Some were asking, “Why does God allow so many bad things to happen?” Others were asking, “What can we, as people of faith, do to stop this violence?” 

I said on Sunday, that it has become more and more difficult for us to have conversations with those who think differently from the way we think.  If, however, we, as people of faith, want to be a part of stopping the violence, we must be able to talk with one another.  We have to go further than professing our belief in the equality of race and gender; we have to speak out and together take the next practical steps, whether that is mission work, protest, or other action.  As Jessica Aziz of Grace Avenue UMC, Frisco, says, “We must have face-to-face sacred conversations and spark those throughout North Texas, especially with people who are different from us, whomever we encounter in classrooms, at work or on the streets.”    

I eagerly anticipate being a part of those face-to-face sacred conversations here at FUMC Plano, and learning how best to give feet to those sacred conversations.  I hope to begin some of those sacred conversations with those of you who sign up for “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” beginning September 8, at 6 p.m., and later in November and December, when we tackle the question, “Why Is It So Hard to Talk About Race?”

Being here at FUMC Plano is, as I knew it would be, a blessing and an opportunity to serve. I am grateful to be in ministry with you,

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Judith Reedy
Associate Pastor

Mission Together ... to our (local) Community

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Last week I defined what we mean by “community” in our disciple-making vision statement, “Connecting God and Grace to Self and Community.” I said that we intentionally enable growing disciples  to connect God and grace to others in our local, regional and global communities. I enumerated several active ways in which hundreds of people from our church do exactly this and in doing so, grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and the world which Christ came to save. In fact, they are active instruments of this ongoing saving healing work that Christ is doing in the world today.

The feedback was so positive after our inaugural Mission Together experience the Sunday after Easter on April 28, we decided to schedule a second opportunity on the weekend of August 24 and 25. Mission Co-Chairs Leslie Harris and Debbie Ison, aided by the Rev. Diane Presley, are designing an array of hands-on opportunities that people of all ages can do together. I often say children learn more from actions than from words. So, we have multi-generational discipleship in mission. This will enable adults to work alongside our kids modeling discipleship by doing “mission together.” Be sure to sign up HERE with your family, Sunday school class or small group to be part our outreach after worship. We are collecting supplies for two organizations, Minnie’s Food Pantry and the Plano Animal Shelter. You can download a list HERE.

As we live more intentionally into a mission-focused perspective as a church, we make outreach and discipleship “the main thing (Covey)." We will worship on Sunday, August 25, in one service together for one hour before going and spending several hours reaching, helping and serving our neighbors the way Jesus teaches us (see Matthew 25: 34-40.) I hope you will make worship on August 25 a priority for it will be one of those rare times when we are all together.

Connecting God and Grace to Self and Community,

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“Community” = Local, Regional, Global

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When we talk about our discipleship process we say we connect God and grace to self and community. What do we mean by “community”? For many, that word implies the local, usually smaller area of our population. For example, I live in the community of Murphy or Lucas or Parker, or the Douglas community within Plano. Certainly, as we chose to use the word “community” in our Vision Statement we had that in mind, and we enable growing disciples in our church to connect God and grace locally through avenues like our recent Patriotic Pops Concert, the Plano Overnight Warming Station on cold winter nights, our Citizenship classes, and our Quilts for Kids ministry just to name a few. A group of men assisted with floor installation in a home recently and will build outdoor benches to be used by Memorial Elementary when school starts up again.

Our understanding of “community” also includes our regional community of Texas and the United States. Recently we enabled growing disciples in our church to connect God and grace through leadership of camp at Bridgeport; college-age and middle school mission trips to Victoria, Texas, for post-hurricane home repair; and a Crossfire Youth Choir tour to New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Our Honduras Mission Team: Mark McLain, Kevin Davenport, Alan England, Will McLain,, and Nigel Eastman. They will travel to the La Mosquitia region of Honduras July 28-Aug. 4.

Finally, we understand “community” to be global. Sunday we blessed Kevin Davenport, Will McLain, Alan England, Nigel Eastman, and Mark McLain as they depart for Honduras with supplies to help with children’s health and home construction. This work aligns with the work of Reach Out Honduras and its directors, Alex and Laura Waits. Laura is the daughter of members Jim and Dee Parker. Tommy and Heidi Lawrence and members of their Sunday School class have been to Honduras as well in support of this growing educational ministry, growing in their discipleship as they connect God and grace where those are vitally needed.

In deploying growing disciples locally, regionally and globally, we step in the footsteps of the first disciples who Jesus charged to go to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth” and be witnesses of love for the Christ we serve.

Thank you ALL for your service to our WHOLE community.

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Does this Speak for Christ?

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Rarely do I yield this column to another, but my colleague Rev. Billy Echols-Richter (Grace Ave. UMC, Frisco) speaks my mind better than I would have so I quote him fully from a recent Facebook post:

Over the years I have discovered that the Church can and will be a place of disagreement. Many times in our particular church I have had people disagree with me, what I said, what I believe or a stance or policy our church has supported. These disagreements often come with a great deal of pain and anxiety. I have never, however, thought to say to someone: “Well if you don’t like it, you ought to just go back to where you came from.” I have never thought to say, “If you don’t like it here, you ought to go back to ...

New England

The Pacific Northwest

Florida

Ohio

Mexico

North Carolina

South Carolina

Wisconsin

Venezuela

California

Iran

Louisiana

Kenya

Great Britain

Kansas

Saudi Arabia

Nebraska

Tanzania

Japan

India

Indiana

Iraq

Arkansas

Guatemala

Michigan

Egypt

Norway

Czech Republic

Korea

Georgia (both of them)

Colorado

Ghana

Australia

Oklahoma

Argentina

Alaska

Afghanistan

Utah

Germany

Mississippi

Syria

Alabama

China

Illinois

Italy

Ireland

South Africa

West Texas

East Texas

South Texas

Central Texas

South Dallas

East Dallas

West Dallas

North Dallas

Ft. Worth...

Just to name a few.

To do that diminishes everything and reduces all of us to the zero sum game of insiders and outsiders.

Ephesians ‭2:17-19‬ reminds us:

“So Christ came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,”

So maybe we should ALL go back to where we came from. I believe very deeply that we come from God, we return to God, and in between we have been given this precious gift of an earthly life. Why should we waste this gift on exclusion, hate and demagoguery?

Let us choose to remember the Doxology so many of us sing every week:

“For from God and through God and to God are all things. To God be the glory forever. Amen.” ‭‭Romans ‭11:36‬ ‭

Thank you Billy for being a leader who speaks difficult truths.

Connecting God and Grace to Self and Community,

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Pardon our Progress

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The success of the Our Home campaign after only 14 months has been largely invisible to most of us. This is because the $450,000 payment toward our long-term debt was a financial transaction, and the renovation work done so far has been in the Gym and Chapel, spaces not used by most of us. That all changes this week. 

As you read this, pews and stained-glass windows are being removed from the Sanctuary for safe-keeping. Just as we did in the Chapel, the stained-glass windows will be cleaned and receive a cover sheet of insulated glass for protection before they are reset in new weather-sealed frames.  Acoustic panels will be installed across the entire parabolic ceiling to increase and sharpen the clarity of sound. A 75" TV screen will be mounted on the back wall so the choirs can see what we all see on the front screens. Lastly, we are replacing new light bulbs and installing new carpeting throughout the Sanctuary. The result will be a new look, improved sound and fresh carpet smell at the end of the project in mid-October. You can find photos of the progress and a timeline schedule of the renovations HERE.

In the meantime, you can expect chairs on our green carpet in the center two sections over the summer as the work progresses around us week to week. It should be both interesting and satisfying. Make every effort when you are in town this summer to be present for the progress as we worship God who is always there. Thank you for your stewardship of this, God's holy temple.

With thanksgiving for you,

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How Are We Treating Our Children?

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In our current Lessons From Leaders sermon series, I mentioned the late Nelson Mandela who kept moving ahead toward his vision of a better South Africa and world. In seeing the heart-breaking images of children and families in overcrowded holding pens where bedding, showers and simple toiletries including diapers are in short and dire supply, I am reminded of a great truth spoken by Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

The humanitarian crisis on our border is speaking volumes about the state of our society’s soul right now. We can do better and we must do better as a society, certainly as one whose moral direction has largely been founded on biblical precepts that have always dignified the sojourner, the immigrant, women, and especially children. Jesus was adamant about this; they are the ones in whom we see the kingdom of God. I have asked the Rev. Diane Presley and our mission team leaders to ponder how we will constructively respond to this crisis as a church because we can do better and we must do better as the hands, feet and tears of Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow night we will certainly delight in, and for a little while be distracted by the rightful grandeur and glory of our Pops Concert, with recognition of our veterans, and followed by the City of Plano fireworks display celebrating our country and its goodness.

I will also certainly at some point in all the entertainment and comfort pause and feel uncomfortable as I hear Mandela whisper, “How are you treating the children?”

Connecting God and Grace to Self and Community,

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Sisters of Faith, Friendship and Mission

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Summer presents such a mix of feelings around transition from one season to another. This is especially true in United Methodist churches when itinerancy moves pastors from one church to another. In a span of a few weeks, we as pastors and congregations go from feelings of loss and grief right into feelings of gain and excitement. Such is our case this year as we said goodbye to the Rev. Dr. Ed Volfe and his family and get ready to say hello to the Revs. Judith Reedy and Diane Presley and their families.

Judith and Diane are newly retired UM pastors with distinguished careers and a passion to do more where their gifts can be utilized for Christ's mission here. In 1998, Diane created Amigos Days while she was an Urban Missionary working for three District Superintendents, and she has been generous in giving 10 hours per week in leadership for our growing focus on mission. Judith was associate pastor here at FUMC Plano from 1997-2002, and she will be working half-time beginning July 1 in pastoral care and worship leadership.

Both share a friendship, a strong faith and a love for mission to the community. Thank you in advance for welcoming these pastors and colleagues in ministry.

Connecting God and Grace to Self and Community,

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