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June 13, 2021

St John UMC
June 13 2021
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Who Will Be On The Throne After Today?

"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior." (1 Timothy 2:1-3)


With today being election day, I want to call our church to continued prayer, to a spirit of unity, and to remembering that God remains sovereign over every rule and authority (Romans 13:1-5). I wanted to bring you words of encouragement today as so many are on edge today. I know so many that "unfriend" people over politics. Before social media, we didn't talk about politics as much, and I feel like it protected our hearts more than our current climate of sharing EVERYTHING that enters our thoughts. As Trevin Wax wrote in a recent Gospel Coalition article: "We must remind ourselves that our King is not up for election, that our faith is global not national, and that politics—while important—is not ultimate. In other words, we lift up the prominence of King Jesus in our thinking and demote the politics of this world. We are to engage in the political process out of love for neighbor, not out of fear or anger. We vote, we serve, we participate, but we do so as exiles and sojourners, not as people who pin all our hopes to any party or politician."


I'm praying that we hold onto this greater truth, as we interact with each other, and with our neighbors, over the next few days and weeks.


In my family growing up, we never really talked about politics. Before I became an eligible voter, I remember exactly one political conversation during my childhood. I was in 3rd grade and I was participating in the mock elections in my school. I had been assigned to represent George H.W. Bush (the first one in 1988) against the other half my class representing Michael Dukakis. I was telling my parents about the class project during dinner. My parents asked me what my argument was going to be. Since I had also recently learned the Spanish word for poop, my entire argument involved rhyming caca with Dukakis and Democrats with dummy, which I loudly explained in the middle of Western Sizzlin'. My moritified mother shushed me and explained that Democrats were not dumb and making fun of people's names were what bullies do and that was no way to win. 1998 was the year I turned 18, and my lawyer cousin ran for judge in our county as an independent. I was in college and very excited to vote for the first time, especially with a family member on the ballot. As it was also a presidental year, I listened carefully to the positions put forth by George W. Bush and Al Gore. I went to the polling center with my mom and we each cast our votes in our individual voting booths without any discussion before or during. Imagine my shock and dismay when my mother is floored after asking about my choice in the voting booth. "How could you vote for Gore? Your family is Republican."


I only share this story now because I feel it illustrates the seismic shift that has happened in our country. Politics is no longer something you discuss quietly at home. It is a shouting match amongst friends and strangers alike. It seems that gone are the days of polite civil discord. If someone disagrees, they can isolate themselves by ghosting and unfriending you and googling new friends that agree with themselves completely. (P.S. My family has grown a lot since 1998. While we still don't always agree on politics, we refuse to let it divide us!)


But we are Christians. We are called to be different. We are called to be a light in the darkness.


"The church has a grand opportunity: to show a watching world what a community looks like where allegiance to Christ transcends the political differences of the current moment. We can push back against the trend of making nearly everything in life political, and of reducing people to their political views."


In God we trust!


Love,

DeAnna


P.S. Just for the record, I don't always vote Democrat. I am a registered voter with no party affiliation. I pray for God to guide my voice and my vote every election cycle.

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Remembering 9/11

It is hard to believe that it has been 19 years since we lost the World Trade Center and so many lives in NYC. As I get older and as the multiple sclerosis advances, there are so many memories that are not as vivid as I would like. But September 11, 2001 is still vivid as the day as it was 19 years ago.


Skip and I had been dating just shy of 6 months. We were both still in college and we had driven to campus together that day. He had an early lab and I needed to go to the computer center to finish a paper. I dropped him off and drove around trying to find a parking space. Then I hear breaking news on the radio, that a plane has just hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I had also just found a parking space and quickly headed to the Fine Arts Center. The secretary in the Theatre & Speech office was always listening to NPR in the morning, so I knew she would know what was going on. When I got there, she was on the phone with the music department secretary down the hallway. She had a TV in her office, so we all headed there. We walk up just as she finds a local news station and just as the second plane hits. My heart dropped out of my chest and I feel numb.


Just the year before, I was in New York City. I was there for an internship in costume design and stage managing at Stage Door Manor, a prominent youth theatre summer program just outside "the city". Many of those I worked with in the summer of 2000 remained in New York City, working other jobs, and honing their craft when they could get a gig. Some got job offers from the summer and were working at other theatre companies during the Stage Door off season. I was offered such a position but chose to come back to Chattanooga to finish my degree. One year later, and I might have been there.


But my mind was fixed on those that were there. My roommate from the previous summer worked in the North Tower as a receptionist. I loved Kat and loved reading about her adventures in NYC on Myspace & BlogSpot. Living with Kat, I loved her ability to sleep through anything in the morning. It meant that I could get ready in the morning without tiptoeing around. On 9/11/01, that attribute likely saved her life.  She slept through her first alarm and was running late.  She missed her normal subway train and had to wait for the next one.  She did not even make

it to her stop when they evacuated the subway in NYC.  She was 2 stops away, so about 8-10 blocks from her usual stop.  When she emerged to the surface, planes had hit both towers, but the towers were still standing.  Even so, she immediately

turned her back to the towers and started walking back to her apartment in

Queens.  (For those of you who go to St John UMC, that would be like starting from our parking lot and walking to Cleveland city limits.)  She remembers hearing a deep rumbling sound and being beat by ash and falling embers.  Not unlike Lot fleeing Sodom, she never looked back.  She told me of seeing people that did stop to look back and many stood frozen in their tracks, completely immobile.  So she just kept walking.


Skip was still in his class and they were not supposed to have phones out.   I couldn’t reach him and I couldn’t take my eyes of the news. I sat in the University Center, just watching and trying to reach Kat in New York. After I could not reach Skip by phone or text, I started instant messaging him through Google, since I knew he had his email in front of him. As soon as he responded on IM, he told me to stop blowing up his phone in class. I told him to check the news, that the Towers were gone and part of the Pentagon.  He first thought I was joking or misinformed. No one wanted to believe this type of tragedy was possible.


As soon as Skip’s class was over, we went back to my apartment. I still had not been able to reach Kat at that point. There was no way I was going to concentrate in my class, and I had never finished that paper anyway, so I skipped it. Back at my apartment in North Chattanooga, my roommate Sarah was frantic. She had never really talked about what her parents did for work. I knew she was from the Chicago area and her parents were analysts of some sort. That day I learned they worked for the government. Sarah knew that they were scheduled to be in Washington, D.C. that week for work. She knew that usually going to D.C. for them meant at least a couple of meetings in the Pentagon. She had been texting with her mom as soon as she saw the news about NYC, mostly to see if they would still go to D.C. She had learned that they were already in D.C. but had not heard anything since 9:30. Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37.


We both sat on our couch and watch the news replay everything over and over.  We hit redial over and over trying to reach our loved ones. We worried. We cried. We had become Lot’s wife. 


What I do not remember is praying. I do not remember just giving it all over to God. I remember trying to figure out what I could do to fix things. At that point in my life, it was not as easy for me to give it to God and let him use the situation for His glory.  In fact, nothing at all got better for either one of us, until we turned off the TV & the radio & the news websites. We took a breath. We put down our phones. Of course, making sure that the ringers were up loud and close by, but we put them down. There was nothing we could do. Skip made us eat dinner. Sarah finally heard from her parents about 4pm that afternoon. Several cell phone towers were down, and the circuits were overloaded with people trying to make calls. I finally heard from Kat about 8pm. It had taken almost 6 hours to make it back to her apartment in Queens from the streets of Manhattan, and NYC was having the same issues with phones.


It was very emotional and difficult for us in the moment. We are grateful that we did not suffer loss that day. I grieve for those that were hit much worse by those tragic events.


Now 19 years later we find ourselves again in tragedy. A tragedy with some similarities and with many differences. 2020 has not been just one event that happened and then we dealt with the aftermath. 2020 has been event after event, new scary thing after new scary thing, adjustment after adjustment, and we are still in the middle of it. So today I pause and ask: How would that day have been different if I had prayed more and worried less? How would the tragedy of what is happening now be different if we prayed more and worried less? How would things be different today if we came together like we did 19 years ago?  

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Commemorating Juneteenth as a White Girl


As a white person growing up in a small community in the valley of Northeast Tennessee, I lived in a very sheltered bubble. Everyone around me looked like me. In 3rd grade, a new family moved to our community. This family actually lived next door to my aunt and uncle. They had a couple of kids and one boy was in my class. His name was Andrew and he had the darkest skin. It was the first time I remember seeing a skin color so drastically different from my own. I thought this was the coolest thing ever and I befriended him immediately. 


Some afternoons, my brother, cousins, and I were sent over to my aunt's house after school because our moms were working. Since there was just a wooden picket fence between Andrew and I, we'd spend those afternoons talking back and forth. Sometimes he and his brothers would come over and play basketball with us in my aunt & uncle's driveway. When we got too hot, my aunt would bring us Pop-ices or cold lemonade. 


It never dawned on me how hard it was to be different because when we played, it felt like we were all just kids. We were all the same. But Andrew's family didn't feel that way. They were not feeling welcome by others in the community. At the end of that school year, they ended up moving. Andrew told me that he was moving so he could go to a different school where there would be more people like him. 


I went through the rest of my school years only having a handful of friends that didn't look like myself. When I moved to Chattanooga for college, it was a totally different world. There were people of all colors, races, and creeds. It was amazing. My freshman dorm room held 4 girls; 2 were black and 1 was a foreign exchange student. It was like I was a fish plucked out of my tiny fishbowl and thrown into the ocean. But it was a beautiful time as I learned more about the history of my country and the world and how people that look different have been treated. I learned about new holidays like Juneteenth, and about countries where people are still enslaved. I realized that even though slavery had been abolished in this country in 1865, we still had quite a ways to go before all people to feel equal. 


Today I can't help but feel we have even farther to go in the push for equality than we did when I started college in 1998. 


There was the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. As a country, we responded by blaming all people the same color of the bombers. 


We elected a black president twiceBut since then we've had street fighting in Charlottesville, VA; a church bombing in Charleston, SC's Emmanuel Church; and we've learned the names of people like Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. We pause, attention is paid, and then time moves on. 


The current age of Black Lives Matter and people protesting in every major city shows us that so many are still striving for reconciliation. So, to commemorate Freedom Day, I would like to state what I believe about race.


I believe God created diversity because there is beauty in it.  My 5-year-old daughter’s favorite color is pink, but when she got a pink comforter, pink sheets, pink curtains, pink wall art, pink ottoman, she realized that too much of one color is overwhelming. No more pink things came into her room. 


I believe racism is learned behavior.  I was reminded of this 2 years ago when my daughter finally had enough vocabulary to start vocalizing the types of toys she wanted. A few months before her 3rd birthday, she told us that she wanted a baby doll that looked like her. So, we started looking for curly blonde headed baby dolls with blue eyes and dimples. A couple of weeks later, we are in a secondhand store that has lots of toys and she’s begging for something to bring home. I tell her that she may choose one toy. She looks for a while and then proudly produces “just what I always wanted – a baby just like me!” I take the doll from her with raised eyebrow to find the price tag, as this baby doll had dark chocolate skin, black hair, and brown eyes. I repeated back to her, “So this is the one baby doll you want? This is the baby that looks like you?” Bonnie very adamantly said, “Yes! I beautiful, she beautiful. Beautiful just like me.”


I believe Black Lives need to matter now, because for so long, they did not matter. So, I stand with you. I hear you. I pray for you every day.


I believe that I don’t know the answers, but God does.


We need to do better. Better for black lives and for all of God’s creation.

We need to do more. Because God calls us to do more. More for ALL His creation.


For history on Juneteenth, please read more here: https://www.resourceumc.org/en/content/juneteenth-celebrates-freedom-from-slavery



If you would like to join us in pressing on to Freedom for All Lives, the UMC is beginning a campaign today called Dismantling Racism. You can find out more at UMC.org/EndRacism. There is information about an online prayer service on Wednesday, June 24 at 1pm and more ways that you can stand with us against racism. 

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Why “GOOD” FRIDAY?



Most of my life, I’ve felt like using the word “good” to describe the day that Jesus was crucified just didn’t feel right. I’m sure that this has to do with the way that I tend to define the word “good.” I typically think of “good” as referring to something that is positive and uplifting, something that brings delight. 


As far as I can discover from my web searches, the Friday of Jesus’ crucifixion—and thus the annual Friday that so many people around the world set aside to remember that Jesus was cursed, beaten, mocked, tortured, hung from a cross by few steel spikes, pierced in His side and died—likely began being called “good” sometime around the 12th Century AD. There are a number of theories as to how the word “good” came to be used; ponderings about whether or not the word was derived from a similar sounding word or meaning. However, I found no historical trail leading back to some particular Greek word from the Scriptures that would help me understand why we use this word, “good,” to describe the day that Jesus died. One more time for “good” measure, there is no conclusive evidence explaining why we use this seemingly ill-fitting word, “good,” as the label for the day Jesus died. (Perhaps you can feel my tension.)


Let’s set the word “good” aside for a moment—before we talk about what we DO know about the day Jesus died—and, let’s take a quick look at John 1 for a necessary reminder of who Jesus really is.


In the very beginning the Living Expression [JESUS] was already there.

And the Living Expression [JESUS] was with God, yet fully God.

2 They were together—face-to-face, in the very beginning. 

3 And through his creative inspiration

    this Living Expression [JESUS] made all things, 

    for nothing has existence apart from him [JESUS]!

4 Life came into being because of him [JESUS]….

10 He [JESUS] entered into the very world he [JESUS] created,

    yet the world was unaware. 

11 He [JESUS] came to the very people he [JESUS] created—

    to those who should have recognized him [JESUS],

    but they did not receive him [JESUS].   ~ JOHN 1:1-4a, 10-11, TPT


From the very beginning, Jesus was. He was with God in the beginning, and He was God in the beginning. He was/is the author of all creation, bringing every human being into existence. It is this very same Jesus who willingly and intentionally allowed some of the very same people who He brought into existence to spit on Him and hurl insults at Him, mocking and cursing His name. This very same Jesus willingly allowed some of the very same people who He brought into existence to beat Him and whip Him almost to the point of death. This very same Jesus willingly allowed some of the very same people who He brought into existence to torture Him as they hammered spikes through His flesh, nailing Him to a wooden structure, on which He would willingly give His very last agonizing breath. 


NOTE: Lest we forget, we are a part of the very same people who this very same Jesus brought into existence. Someone else might have wielded the whip or swung the hammer, but it is because of ALL OF OUR SIN that Jesus willingly allowed His life-giving, perfect, sinless blood to be completely poured out.


Pause…


And then, my mind drifts back to this word, “good.” Willingly and intentionally, Jesus was cursed, beaten, mocked, tortured, hung from a cross by few steel spikes, pierced in His side, suffocated and died. There is no way around the reality that these were HORRIBLE acts. Is “horrible” not the opposite of “good”? So why call this day “GOOD” FRIDAY?


7 Now, who of us would dare to die for the sake of a wicked person? We can all understand if someone was willing to die for a truly noble person. 8 But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly! ROMANS 5:7-8, TPT


THIS…THIS IS THE “GOOD” NEWS, FRIENDS! The absolute reality is that without Jesus’ death, there would be no resurrection. And, without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no restoration or redemption for humanity. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Jesus willingly and intentionally allowed His life-giving, perfect, sinless blood to be completely poured out to cover over the wretchedness of our self-serving, others-diminishing thoughts, actions and behaviors (ie. SIN)…because He loves us! In 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21, it says that Jesus, WHO HAD NO SIN IN HIMBECAME OUR SIN so that we—some of the very same people who He brought into existence, who would otherwise be covered in guilt and shame—might become His righteous ones.


…for his [JESUS’] life is light for all humanity. 

5 And this Living Expression [JESUS] is the Light that bursts through gloom—

    the Light that darkness could not diminish!

9 For the Light of Truth [JESUS] was about to come into the world

    and shine upon everyone.

12 But those who embraced him [JESUS] and took hold of his [JESUS’] name

    were given authority to become

    the children of God!  JOHN 1:1-4a, 10-11, TPT


JESUS, the Light and Life of humanity, gave His life for you and me that we might live! This certainly fits my definition of “good”—positive and uplifting, bringing delight beyond understanding! So is today “GOOD FRIDAY”? ABSOLUTELY!


GRACE & PEACE, MY FRIENDS, ON THIS TRULY GOOD FRIDAY!

Pastor Carl

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What’s the point of “Maundy Thursday”?



As a child, I remember being a bit confused when the Thursday before Easter rolled around each year. My ears always heard “Monday” Thursday. I remember thinking, “OK, which is it, Monday or Thursday…it can’t be both!” I’m pretty sure I never said that out loud for fear of sounding stupid. It makes me chuckle now, though. 


Many of you are perhaps savvy church historians and know that the word “maundy” is evidently a shortened form of the Latin word “mandatum,” which means “command.” The mandate, or command, that Jesus gives takes place in the part of the Gospel story from John’s account when Jesus was at His “last supper” with the disciples. Preceding His mandate, I really love the candid snapshot of Jesus in John 13, TPT. He gets up from the meal, takes off His outer clothing, wraps a towel around His waist and begins washing the disciple’s feet. My friends, this is a radical picture of love! And, of course, we remember “Impetuous Peter’s” re-actions to Jesus, and Jesus’ beautiful inter-action with Peter: 


8 Peter looked at Jesus and said, “You’ll never wash my dirty feet—never!”


“But Peter, if you don’t allow me to wash your feet,” Jesus responded, “then you will not be able to share life with me.”


9 So Peter said, “Lord, in that case, don’t just wash my feet, wash my

hands and my head too!”  


Note that washing His disciples’ feet and having this interaction with Peter comes BEFORE Jesus’ sharing His new “command/mandate” with His beloved disciples. Jesus was always so intentional. He didn’t simply say things expecting His disciples (us) to automatically understand. He always lived out what He said.


In John 13:34, Jesus gives His “mandatum.” He says, “So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you.” The absolutely astounding thing to me is that Jesus makes this “maundy” statement AFTER He predicts Judas’ betrayal; and, more or less, in the same breath that He predicts Peter’s denial. If this doesn’t make the picture clear enough to us what Jesus means when He says, “Love each other just as much as I have loved you, then all we have to do is read what Jesus willingly endured in the moments following His last meal with the disciples—denial, betrayal, cursing, beating, mocking, torture, physical, mental and emotional anguish, crucifixion…death.


As we spend time with Jesus today, “MAUNDY THURSDAY,” contemplating the amazing things that Jesus willingly endured to show His love for us, may we grow exponentially in our understanding that to “love eachother just as much” aHe loves us isn’t a choice, it’s a mandate. And, may we increasingly grasp that this mandate is only possible as we continually and completely surrender to HIS lordship in and over our lives, trusting in HIS Holy Spirit to fill us with HIS love.


GRACE & PEACE TO YOU ON THIS MAUNDY THURSDAY, MY FRIENDS!

Pastor Carl



Ps. Over the next few days try to take the time to read the accounts of THE PASSION STORY in the four Gospels for a powerful reminder of just how much Jesus loves you. And, for a great way to put some action to your love today, check out the suggestion in this devotional for Lent, “TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY.”

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