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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“The greatest among you will be your servant.” –Matthew 23:11

 

Last week I visited the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was Pastor at the time of his death.  The sanctuary has been preserved right down to the taxi cab pulpit microphone that emanated King’s prophetic words.

 

Today, you can sit in pews where his congregation sat on February 4, 1968 to hear what would be the preacher’s final sermon, “The Drum Major Instinct.”  A recording of that sermon was playing when I walked into Ebenezer Baptist’s sanctuary.  From the front row looking up at the altar where Pastor Martin once sat, I was inspired all over again by his words filling the room: “[Before we judge others for their selfishness], let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves, and we will discover that we too have those same basic desires for recognition, for importance…  We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade…  It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it.  Don’t give it up.  Keep feeling the need for being important.  Keep feeling the need for being first.  But I want you to be first in love.”  (The congregation chants back, “Amen.”)  “I want you to be first in moral excellence.  I want you to be first in generosity.”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Greetings from the Festival of Homiletics, an annual continuing education opportunity for preachers where clergy of all stripes are spiritually fed by worship services and sermons, workshops and lectures, resource fairs and book sales, and even a bluegrass band leading a hymn sing in a local bar.  This year, the Festival is in Atlanta, Georgia, where one of the featured speakers is Baptist preacher Julie Pennington-Russell.  I attended her sermon in Buckhead Theatre yesterday morning.

 

In the soft light illuminating the stage-turned-altar-space, Rev. Pennington-Russell preached on the apocalyptic text from Luke 21:25-36.  After pointing out how it is not so much an alleged rapture text as a scripture pointing to present trials and turmoil, the preacher preaching to preachers set our hearts on fire with the good news that as odd and weird as all of that seems, in the end the oddness and weirdness will bear the face of Christ and lead to the very heart of God.  In short, she stressed how we needed to not be distracted from the present with our attention looking to the hereafter; rather, we are called to be fully present in the moment set right before us, because in that precious sliver of time resides the beauty of God.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

 

“…pray without ceasing...” –1 Thessalonians 5:17, NRSV

 

How do you pray?  How often do you pray?  What do you pray for?  Someone once asked me, “Who do you pray to?”  These questions and so many more are at the heart of that biblical instruction we have to pray ceaselessly, because to “pray without ceasing” is a contextual imperative.

 

Some of us think of prayer as a cerebral exercise.  We think of things to pray for, we voice those prayers, and we say, “Amen.”  But if prayer is a purely intellectual matter, then it’s safe to assume there is no one on earth obeying the mandate to pray without stopping, because that would require someone to keep their mind and mouth moving incessantly in articulations of prayers, never reaching that conclusive “amen.”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. –Isaiah 43:1, NRSV

 

Well, it’s May the 4th, which means it’s National Star Wars Day, which means that it’s the obligation of this pastor—who recalls his parents taking him to see Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in an Austin movie theater when he was a boy (that is now a public library), and who, 22 years later, took his three-month-old son to a theater for the first time to see Star Wars, Episode V: Revenge of the Sith—to write a devotion about a spiritual parallel between the story of Christianity and the story that was created “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” –Psalm 40:1-2, NRSV

 

Have you ever felt like you’re not where you’re supposed to be?  I’m not talking about misreading directions and getting lost.  I’m talking about being in a place, a situation, a behavior where your gut tells you, “I’m not supposed to be here.”

 

Last week a terrible storm hit the Houston area and parts of the region were flooded.  Christ United Church of Cypress suffered severe damage with their building being halfway underwater.  As soon as the waters receded from inroads to the church, volunteers came in to help clear out salvageable items and put them into boxes and pods for storage.  Walls were pulled from their framework and flooring pried from the ground to prevent the onset of mildew.  It was devastating to the congregation.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,


Toward the end of my recent sabbatical, I called someone with whom I serve on the United Church of Christ’s South Central Conference Board of Directors. Debra knew I had been on professional leave, and she and I hadn’t spoken in several weeks.
“Hello, Debra. It’s Dan. How are you?”
“Well! Welcome back to the land of the living!”
It’s a common greeting said to anyone from the sleepy-eyed teenager waking up in the middle of a summer day to the PhD candidate getting out of the apartment after days in solitude preparing their defense. But when I heard those words from a colleague and friend, “welcome back to the land of the living,” I took them to heart.

 

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Mark Thomas currently serves as Moderator at Friends Church. He teaches philosophy and religion at Blinn College, and enjoys running and hiking with his wife, Lucy, and son, Canaan.

 

 

One could spend a lifetime—indeed, multiple lifetimes—exploring the many layers and facets of the Bible. Occasionally, however, in certain circumstances, something might click. No matter how many times one may have read a passage, suddenly its meaning is really illuminated, from the inside, as it speaks to the life we have in this world in which we live. There is a difference between theoretical knowledge and existential knowledge, between understanding something in abstraction, with one’s mind, and being forcefully struck in the moment, seeing and feeling the truth deep within one’s total being. When truth intersects with life, that is when it can make us free.

 

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The Rev. Matthew Wise is a priest in the Episcopal Church currently serving as the Associate Rector for Family Ministries, Outreach and Parish Life at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio.  Matt and his wife, Amy, are the proud parents of 7 month old twins, Jacob and Sawyer.  Before moving back to San Antonio in January, Matt served as the Campus Missioner at Texas A&M for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.  He's also a musician and songwriter.



Easter isn't just one day a year


John 21.4-7

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ 



This is the final appearance of the Risen Jesus in John's Gospel account.  It serves as an epilogue to the whole narrative - the curtain has closed on the Gospel once already, and now the main actors appear one more time.  It's as if John's community felt like the first ending wasn't quite good enough...or better, that we (those receiving the good news) needed one final reminder of what these stories have all been leading to. The work of Jesus Christ is not over when their story has ended.  Instead, the ministry of the Risen Lord continues even after the text is finished.  John's community makes this clear in these few verses appointed to be read across many denominations this coming Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Easter.  These verses serve as a reminder to us that the Easter season and all that it implies for our lives is not over once the Easter service is finished.  The power of resurrection is still on the loose and is doing amazing, beautiful things in our lives to this day.

 

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Today’s mid-week message is written by Pam Engler a retired Christian educator. Pam and her husband Cady are members of Friends Church. They co-chair the Fellowship Committee and participate in the Social Justice Class. She enjoys volunteering weekly with the Meals on Wheels program and the Brazos Church Pantry.

 

Being Easter People

Last Sunday Christians around the world celebrated our faith’s holiest day – Easter. On this day we remember the great love that God has for each one of us and the promises that have been given to us. The season of Easter during the Christian Year is a time of great joy.

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 Today’s midweek message is written by Andrew Roblyer.  Andrew is a member of Friends Church, where he serves on the Faith Inclusion & Disabilities Awareness Team, offers children’s messages in Sunday worship celebrations, and is an occasional lay leader.

 

Where Is The Line?

Limitations are funny things.  We often use them to delineate between two distinct ideas, but sometimes we find ourselves in need of limits to limit our limits.  That statement was probably as clear as mud. Maybe I can set some limits to help clarify.

 

If you were a top notch rule-follower like I was growing up, you not only knew where all of the stated limitations in life were, you knew how to intuit the ones nobody really talked about and probably even created some of your own when you thought there weren’t enough.  Rules were there for a reason, and nothing good came from breaking the rules.  Kind of like how, in early elementary arithmetic, you’re taught that you can’t subtract a larger number from a smaller one.  A nice, clear line that makes total sense.

 

This Week @ Friends (DP)

Monday - May 30th

May
30


9:00-am 1:00-pm

Tuesday - May 31st

May
31


7:30-am 9:30-am

Wednesday - Jun 01st

Jun
1


7:30-pm 9:00-pm

Friday - Jun 03rd

Jun
3


Saturday - Jun 04th

Jun
4


10:00-am 12:00-pm

Sunday - Jun 05th

Jun
5


9:15-am 10:15-am

Jun
5


10:30-am 11:45-am